Child Protection

Child Protection

Last modified 19/01/2012

Rationale

All adults have a responsibility to care for children and to protect them from any kind of abuse or neglect. The School is responsible to provide a safe environment for children and to provide an education which fosters their health, developmental needs, spirituality, self respect and dignity. We are entrusted by parents with the care of their children, who are precious in the sight of God. The school's actions in this area must always be in line with all relevant legislation.

This policy provides the requirements in relation to Child protection at Nowra Christian School. It relates to suspected or reported cases of abuse against students by staff, parents, other students, or by other persons outside the school. Such abuse can also constitute sexual harassment. Therefore, this policy is to be read in conjunction with the school's Sexual Harassment Policy .

Grooming (engaging in any conduct that exposes a child to indecent material or provides a child with an intoxicating substance, with the intention of making it easier to procure the child for unlawful sexual activity with that or any other person) is discussed in greater detail in the Staff Student Relationships. Allegations of grooming made against a staff member may be dealt with under the provisions of either this policy, or the Staff Student Relationships Policy.

This policy also relates to legislation known as Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1988, Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act 2000 and Commission for Children and Young People Act 1998.

To assist staff, all staff are required to read this policy annually and provide evidence (that can vary year by year, but includes signing off an accountability document or completing a quiz  to indicate that they have read and noted the information in the policy.

 

Aims

  • NCS is committed to providing a safe environment for students, to prevent child abuse in any form and to deal with reports of abuse promptly and appropriately.

  • The term "child abuse" in this policy can take a number of forms including sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglect. The term "sexual abuse" in this policy means the involvement of dependent children or adolescents in sexual activity with an adult or person older or bigger. The child is used as a sexual object for the gratification of the older person's needs or desires and is unable to give consent due to the unequal power in the relationship. Sexual abuse does not include peer sexual activity. Sexual abuse takes a wide range of forms. Appendix 1 of this policy lists examples of sexual abuse.

  • The school provides for the support of children, families and staff directly involved with the issue of child abuse through the pastoral care and counselling structures of the school.

  • The Principal is responsible for the administration and conduct of the school and all that relates to it, therefore, the Principal is to be informed promptly of all serious matters concerning the welfare of students.

  • All staff are to report any cases of child abuse to the Principal. Cases of suspected child abuse or neglect (i.e. at risk of significant harm) must be reported to Community Services (CS) through the Principal. Mandatory reporting is required by Law for teachers, Counsellors, Principals and Heads of Schools for any child under the age of 16 years. At NCS, we extend this to include Young People (under the age of 18. If evidence of a crime exists the matter will be reported directly to the police with respect to the offender by Community Services.

  • Significant is defined as harm that is sufficiently serious to warrant a response by a statutory authority irrespective of a family's consent. Something that is significant is not minor or trivial. It may reasonably be expected to produce a substantial and demonstrable adverse impact on the child or young person's safety, welfare or well being, and can result from a single act or omission, or an accumulation of these.

  • Accurate documentation will be kept concerning reports made about possible child abuse, details of reporting, actions within the school resulting from reporting, and other details related to reported cases of abuse.

  • Staff employment policy and procedures will ensure that staff who are appointed to positions are fit and proper persons to occupy those positions and understand their responsibilities in this area. All new staff appointments are screened for the school by the Commission for Children and Young People. All volunteer staff who work with children unsupervised, or who have the potential to work with children unsupervised, are required to complete a prohibited person's declaration form and a "Voluntary Helpers Guidelines" form.



 

  • Inservice and induction processes will ensure all staff are thoroughly conversant with this policy and related procedures.

 

  • In relation to this policy the following should be taken as guiding principles:

    • In every action related to child abuse the best interest of the child is of paramount consideration;

    • The value of the family unit and the biblical responsibility for parental education of children is to be respected but not to the detriment of the well being of the child;

    • In proceeding to take action under any relevant legislation, school staff must satisfy themselves that they are acting on reasonable grounds. Any questions of others that the teacher might ask in satisfying "reasonable grounds" must be couched in terms that do not refer to the question of abuse.

    • All persons involved in situations where abuse is suspected or disclosed are to be treated with sensitivity, dignity and respect;

    • Staff who have access to information regarding suspected or disclosed child abuse are to observe strict confidentiality in relation to the entire matter. These issues are only to be discussed with those in the privileged protection path. Those people are the Principal and Board Chairman. If the allegation is against a staff member, the privileged protection path extends to staff accredited by the AIS for the purpose of carrying out investigations under agreed protocols. Staff may only report allegations to the Principal or, if the allegation is against the Principal, to the Board Chairman. Discussing the matters with others may leave the staff member open to defamation action against them and disciplinary action by the school.

 

Knowingly breaching key points of this policy are grounds for dismissal. These key points include:

 

  • failure to notify the Principal/Board Chairman and Community Services of reportable circumstances;
  • failure to limit conversations relevant to offences under this policy to the schools privileged protection path, and
  • any abuse of children or young people by the staff member.

 

Failure to be aware of the procedures outlined in this policy is not deemed to be an excuse for failure to comply with this policy.

 

This policy and procedures will be re-examined each year.

 

Procedures and Guidelines

Identifying abuse

  • If a child tells you about Abuse

 

Staff need to be well prepared so that they can be supportive of the student and clear about their responsibilities at the same time. It is essential that the staff member remains calm and supportive of the student. The staff member should:

 

  • actively listen to the student and never probe for details or ask leading questions;

  • talk gently and reassuringly, pointing out you are there to help;

  • only ask open ended questions that are designed to provide sufficient information about whether the suspicion of abuse is sufficiently strong to warrant a report being made;

  • where the abuse is taking place outside the school's control, never assure the student that the abuse will stop as that cannot be guaranteed;

  • do not make promises that you will not tell anyone; in fact, you should disclose that you have a responsibility to tell the Principal.

 

If a student begins to make a disclosure in a group situation (say in a camp sharing time) staff are required to:

 

  • acknowledge that you have heard the student;

  • indicate your support by explaining that what the student has said sounds important and that it would be better to talk about it later;

  • quietly arrange an appropriate time to see the student away from other students.

 

  • If you have reason to suspect Abuse

 

From time to time staff may suspect child abuse may have occurred or may be about to occur. Staff need to be aware of the indicators of child abuse. Appendix 2 lists some general and specific indicators of child abuse.

 

In the Act the concept of 'notification' to CS has been replaced by that of 'reporting' the current or anticipated risk of significant harm. This has resulted in a widening of the circumstances that require reporting to all forms of child abuse and a focus on the risk or possibility of significant harm occurring to the child as well as on any significant harm that has actually occurred.

 

Risk of significant harm can arise because of the presence of any or more of the following circumstances:

 

  • the child's or young person's basic physical or psychological needs are not being met or at risk of not being met

  • the parent or other carers have not arranged and are unable or unwilling to arrange for the child or young person to receive necessary medical care

  • the child or young person has been, or is at risk of being, physically or sexually abused or ill-treated

  • the child or young person is living in a house where there have been incidents of domestic violence and, as a consequence, the child or young person is at significant risk of serious physical or psychological harm

  • a parent or other carer has behaved in such a way towards the child or young person that the child or young person has suffered or is at risk of suffering serious psychological harm
    Mandatory reporting of risk of harm applies to both individual children and a class of children. A class of children refers to more than one child who may be at risk of
    significant harm because of their association with a person or situation identified as posing a risk of significant harm. A child means a person who is under the age of 16 years and reporting a risk of harm to children is mandatory. By law, reporting a risk of significant harm in respect of young persons between the ages of 16 and 18 is discretionary, but mandatory at NCS.

 

The Interagency Guidelines for Child Protection Intervention (Section3.2.3) clearly place any mandatory reporting responsibility on the individual employee (teacher or manager). However, Section 3.2.5 of the guidelines states that when making a report, employees must follow agency (school) procedures.

 

At NCS, the procedure is that the Teacher and the Principal together make the report. (If the accusation is against the Principal, the teacher and Board Chairman must make the report together.

 

The school has a copy of the guidelines available from the Principal. It is also available on the Commission for Children and Young People's website on www.kids.nsw.gov.au

 

The Act also provides protection against, among other things, claims for defamation and civil proceedings for malicious prosecution for any person who makes a report.

  • If someone reports Abuse to you

 

  • Staff or students who in good faith make an allegation of improper conduct of a sexual or abusive nature by a person against a student will not be prejudiced in any way.

  • If anyone reports actual or suspected abuse you should report this to the Principal immediately.

 

The role of Community Services

 

The Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1988 No 157

 

This Act forms the statutory basis for the role of Community Services for the investigation of cases of suspected child abuse and the responsibilities borne by schools in relation to such cases. A child is defined as a person under the age of 18 years. Abuse in relation to a child means to:

 

  • assault (including sexual assault) the child; or

  • ill treat the child; or

  • expose or subject the child to behaviour that psychologically harms the child, whether or not, in any case, with the consent of the child.

 

Mandatory reporting of suspected children at risk to Community Services is required under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1988 No 157 for teachers, Counsellors, Principals and Heads of Schools for any child under the age of 16 years, even if reporting is against the wishes of the child. At NCS, we extend this to include Young People (under the age of 18).

 

If for any reason the Principal cannot or will not report a matter, an obligation still exists for the other named reporters to notify.

 

All notifications that involve a criminal offence under the Children and Young People (Care and Protection) Act 1998 No 157, the Crimes Act 1900, or the Crimes (Female Genital Mutilation) Act 1995 must be referred by CS to the police. This includes all cases of sexual abuse. Child abuse under the Crimes Act 1900 refers to a range of offences that result in harm to a child victim or which involve behaviours to which a child cannot give consent. Offences include sexual intercourse, indecent assault and indecent acts. The practising, aiding, abetting, counselling on or procuring of someone to practise female genital mutilation is an offence under the Crimes (Female Genital Mutilation) Act 1995.

 

Procedures in relation to an allegation or reporting of Abuse

 

Allegations are to be reported to the Principal either orally or in writing. Where an allegation is made to a staff member other than the Principal, the staff member should immediately report the matter to the Principal. In cases of allegations against the Principal the Board Chairman should be contacted.

 

Staff or students who in good faith make an allegation of improper conduct of a sexual or abusive nature by a person against a student will not be prejudiced in any way.

 

The Principal must respond promptly and sensitively to any allegation.

 

Counselling support will be offered to all parties in relation to a reported allegation.

 

Allegations of improper sexual conduct by a staff member against a student

 

Please refer to the agreed protocols.

 

Student Interviews in cases reported to Community Services

 

In relation to reportable cases of abuse where Community Services has been notified, officers of Community Services and the NSW Police Service may wish to carry out student interviews, sometimes jointly, at school.

 

No student will be interviewed at the School against the wishes of the student and it is the Principal's responsibility to inform the student of this. At the commencement of the interview, the Principal should ask the investigating officers to explain to the student, in the presence of the Principal, the purpose of the interview and their role. The Principal will inform the student of his or her right to choose a supportive adult to be present at the interview. Community Services or Police Officers are responsible for communicating with parents about any matters related to an interview. If a person is nominated by the student, the interview must not commence until that person has arrived. What takes place in the interview becomes part of the investigation and must remain confidential. Except in cases which involve a member of the family, it is expected that a parent of the child concerned will be present at any interview with the child.

 

Exchange of Information with Community Services

 

Before any phone discussions occur between officers of Community Services and the Principal, the Principal must always confirm the identity of the caller by phoning the known number of the Community Services Centre before any discussions occur. Any information requested verbally must be confirmed in writing promptly. Any staff that receive a call from Community Services must refer the officers to the Principal.

 

Implementation

 

The Principal is responsible to ensure that this policy is effectively understood and implemented by staff and students.

 

Staff communication of policy

 

  • All staff will be made aware of this Policy via the Staff Handbook. Staff will be reminded of the Policy as it applies to them and their students through review at staff development meetings from time to time.

  • The explanation and implementation of this policy and procedures shall form part of the new staff induction program.

 

Student communication of policy

 

Relevant aspects of the Child Protection Policy will be integrated into the Personal Development, Health and Physical Education classes by the end of Term 1 each year.

 

Investigation of complaints

 

Complaints will be investigated in a confidential manner by the head of agency or an accredited person. No staff member or student will be disadvantaged as a result of making a complaint. During the process of investigation the following may occur:

 

  • a direction for the student or staff member to receive counselling

  • suspension of staff member or student

 

 

Other matters

 

Removal of students by Community Services Officers

 

From time to time the Principal will be approached by officers from Community Services to remove a student from school premises. This approach will be supported by a Section 60 notice. If a student is to be removed from School (Section 60) or ordered to remain at the school (Section 62A) the Principal must:

 

  • sight the identification of the officers;

  • take a copy of the Section 60 or Section 62A notice;

  • record details of the actions, names of officers and, where possible, place of lodgement of the student;

  • gain an assurance from officers of Community Services that they will immediately inform the parent or caregiver that the student has been removed from the school or has been ordered to remain at the school.

 

 

Appendix 1: Examples of Sexual Abuse

 

Sexual abuse can take many forms. Examples of sexual abuse include the following:

 

  • vaginal or anal penetration by a finger, penis or any other object (except where carried out for proper medical purposes).

  • oral sex.

  • indecent assault, being defined as an assault, a touching without consent, accompanied by an indecent act.

  • any indecent act, defined as one which right minded persons would consider contrary to community standards of decency.

  • fondling or touching genitals, breasts, buttocks, or thighs.

  • masturbation.

  • pornography.

  • exhibitionism.

  • suggestive behaviour.

  • taking sexual advantage of the child through misuse of power.

  • conversations with a lewd or sexual theme.

  • Sexual abuse also includes attempting any of the above acts, or assault with such intent.

 

 

Appendix 2: Indicators of abuse and neglect

 

General Indicators

 

In assisting staff to identify suspected cases of child abuse, indicators of abuse or neglect include, but are not limited to, the following:

 

  • history of previous harm to the child

  • abuse or neglect of a sibling

  • social or geographic isolation of the child or family

  • family history of violence including injury to children

  • domestic violence

  • physical or mental health issues for the parent or caregiver

  • the parent or caregivers' abuse of alcohol or other drugs

  • a developmental disability of the parent or caregiver

  • parent or caregiver experiencing significant problems in managing the child's behaviour

  • a history of injury which is vague, bizarre or variable

  • marked delay between injury and presentation for medical assistance

  • the child tells you he or she has been abused, or he or she knows someone who has been abused and may be referring to themselves

  • a friend, relative etc. tells you that the child may have been abused

 

Specific Indicators

 

Sexual Abuse

 

Indicators of sexual abuse in children include:

 

  • direct or indirect disclosures

  • describing sexual acts

  • age inappropriate behaviour and/or persistent sexual behaviour

  • self destructive behaviour (e.g. self mutilation, suicide attempts)

  • overtly sexual themes in play, artwork or writing

  • persistent running away from home

  • anorexia, over eating

  • unexplained accumulation of money or gifts

  • adolescent pregnancy

  • injuries to the breasts, buttocks, lower abdomen and thighs

  • Other child stress indicators (e.g. poor concentration, nightmares and bedwetting, marked changes in behaviour, complaints of stomach aches and headaches with no physical findings)

 

Physical Abuse

 

Indicators of physical abuse include:

 

  • bruising and other injuries to the face, head and neck

  • lacerations and welts

  • explanation offered by the child inconsistent with the injury

  • bruising and marks which takes the shape of an object (belt buckle etc)

  • bite marks and scratches

  • multiple injuries or bruises

  • burns and scalds

 

Emotional Abuse

 

Indicators of emotional abuse include:

 

  • feelings of worthlessness about life and themselves

  • inability to value others

  • lack of trust in people and expectations

  • extreme attention seeking behaviour

  • behavioural disorders

  • persistent hostility in parents or caregivers or constant criticism of the child

 

Neglect

 

Indicators of neglect include:

 

  • poor standards of hygiene

  • scavenging or stealing food

  • extended stays at school, public places, others' homes

  • being focussed on basic survival

  • untreated physical problems

 

NCS Skoolbag