What is a response from an organisational to a Child Safety Concern?
A child safe concern response, is any response by an organisation. A response includes all actions of an organisation in their response to a concern, not just the final outcome decision.
This can include (but is limited to):
- No response
- Collecting information in order to guide a decision
- Providing compassionate people care for a worker
- Providing compassionate people care for a person or family unrelated to the organisation
- Reporting a concern to Law enforcement
- Reporting a concern to Children Service (Child Protection government agencies)
- Making changes to your organisations policy or practices
- Administrative discipline of a worker or volunteer, up to and including dismissal
- Acknowledging the impact that a child safety concern has had upon an individual or community
Are organisations known for appropriately responding to Child Safety Concerns?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. But they are getting better. It is helpful to consider some of the issues that have contributed to organisations poor responses.
“Inappropriate behaviours are often known, or at least suspected, by peers” (Erooga, 2009). It is the failure to instil a culture of openness and accountability that leads to organisational environments that enable the harm and abuse of children.
It is helpful to consider some of the issues that have contributed to organisation’s poor responses to Child Safety Concerns:
- Narrow definitions of what constitutes a Child Safety Concern
- Concern that addressing or acknowledging the Child Safety Concern will negatively impact the organisation
- Workers of the organisation not recognising Child Safety Concerns
- Belief that children are not harmed in Christian Communities
- Little experience with assessing Child Safety Concerns
- No knowledge of dealing with adult who sexually harm children
I think in the journey of working with survivors over these last 10, 15 years, The Salvation Army has come to terms with the reality that our reputation does not need to be protected; children need to be protected; and, in doing so, the reputation of The Salvation Army will take care of itself. Doing that which is right for survivors and for children, creating safe environments, will look after the reputation. We don’t start with the reputation. We start with the child.A leader of the Salvation Army
The Australian Royal Inquiry into Organisational Responses to Child Sexual Abuse revealed that the poor responses by organisations were due to lack of experience and knowledge with how to assess and respond to child safety concerns, and how to deal with people who sexually offend against children, rather than an intention to protect the person who was harming children.
Importance of appropriate response
There can be serious consequences if an organisation does not respond appropriately to a Child Safety Concern. This can include:
- Ongoing harm or safety issues for children
- Increased trauma to those who do not have their trauma acknowledged by the organisation
- Broken relationships within and out of the organisation
- Reputational Risk to the organisation
- Risk of legal proceedings against the organisation
Therefore it is extremely important for organisations to make and implement responses to Child Safety Concerns that are compassionate and well considered.