From 1 January 2016, all early childhood services are required to comply with new child safe standards designed to ensure that organisations that work with children take steps to create a culture of child safety and protect children from all forms of abuse.
The child safe standards have been introduced in response to the recommendations of the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Non-Government Organisations, which found that more must be done to prevent and respond to child abuse. The standards apply to all organisations that provide services for children, including early childhood services.
The aim of the child safe standards is to drive continuous improvement so that protecting children from abuse is embedded in everyday thinking and practice of leaders, staff and volunteers. The focus of the standards for 2016 is on raising awareness and helping organisations to create and maintain child safe environments through education and training.
Creating a child safe organisation
In complying with the child safe standards, the early childhood service must include the following principles as part of each standard:
- promoting the cultural safety of Aboriginal children
- promoting the cultural safety of children from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds
- promoting the safety of children with a disability.
To create and maintain a child safe organisation, an early childhood service must have in place:
Standard 1: Strategies to embed an organisational culture of child safety, including through effective leadership arrangements
Standard 2: A child safe policy or statement of commitment to child safety
Standard 3: A code of conduct that establishes clear expectations for appropriate behaviour with children
Standard 4: Screening, supervision, training and other human resources practices that reduce the risk of child abuse by new and existing personnel
Standard 5: Processes for responding to and reporting suspected child abuse
Standard 6: Strategies to identify and reduce or remove risks of child abuse
Standard 7: Strategies to promote the participation and empowerment of children.
The National Quality Framework already requires early childhood services to meet many aspects of the child safe standards. Services are encouraged to review their policies, procedures and practices including their current child safe environment and staffing policies and procedures to ensure they meet the child safe standards.
The Department of Education and Training has also developed Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to assist services.
Further information on the standards, including a toolkit, is available on Department of Health and Human Services website.
The Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP) released a Guide for creating a child safe organisation, which aims to help organisations assess how ‘child safe’ their organisation is and to give practical guidance to improve and meet the child safe standards. See the guide on the CCYP website.