Child protection: what kind of environment are you offering children?

By Marit van Liere

Project Officer at Wilde Ganzen and specialises in child welfare.

More from Marit Marit van Liere

Child protection is an increasingly important issue for Wilde Ganzen. Marit van Liere explains why, and tells how we aim to support partners like you on this topic. 

Last April, I became a mother to a beautiful daughter. After a lovely period of maternity leave during which we were together every day for several months, it was time to go back to work in August. This meant not only getting back to great projects and partners like you, but also taking our daughter to childcare. As for any parent, it was a big step to hand over care to total strangers, because who knew her better than us, the parents? Especially that first day, we kept a close eye on the messages from daycare and counted down the hours until we could pick her up again. 

Childcare not self-evident

That insecure feeling vanished over time, because I know that all the staff at the day-care center are incredibly sweet, have undergone training and courses ànd were screened by the childcare authorities. After all, the childcare center has to comply with the strict rules set by the Dutch government when working with children. Unfortunately, this is not always evident, also in the world of development cooperation. Too often, cases come to light at larger NGOs where children, or vulnerable groups, have become victims of employees’ mishandling. 

Wilde Ganzen is an organisation that does not work with children directly, but has numerous partners who do. Until now, we asked all our partners to sign a code of conduct when starting a project together, but less priority was given to for example child protection policies and how this is complied within organisations. This is something we plan to move towards slowly but surely. 

Preventing abuse

We are obviously keen to prevent abuse of children and employees. They deserve to be protected at all times by the organisations working for and/or with them. To most of you, abuse or maltreatment luckily will sound intense and improbable as the best interests are at heart. Giving children a better future is a heart-felt goal for so many! However, it is good to be vigilant about the risks involved in working with children: there could, for example, be people from outside the organization who want to do harm to children and can easily come close. In addition, sexual abuse of minors is unfortunately often committed by acquaintances of victims. 

Resolving small dilemmas

Sometimes child protection is more about the small dilemmas. For example, in some countries it may be common practice to hit school children on their hands with a small stick if they are naughty or don’t pay attention in class. In other countries such as in the Netherlands, this is not allowed. Therefore, different views may exist amongst organisations working together. We encourage all to discuss such topics with an open mind.  

Support our partners 

In the upcoming years, Wilde Ganzen will focus on supporting partner organisations like yours in the field of child protection and ‘safeguarding’. We have just started a pilot for a learning trajectory on ‘safeguarding’ for our partner organisations in southern Africa. This is organised by Give a Child a Family, which has expertise in the field of ‘every child a home’ and child protection. The aim is to roll this out in other countries in Africa, Asia and South America over time. 

Do you have questions, advice, or other topics you would like to discuss? It would be great to hear from you! You can reach me at marit@wildeganzen.nl. 

Child protection, codes of conduct, safeguarding and integrity: what does it entail? 

As organisations working in the development sector, we all want to do justice to those we work with and for, and establish integrity at all levels – from financial to interpersonal. A code of conduct as part of an integrity policy articulates the organisation’s norms and values and how volunteers, employees and partner organisations should act accordingly. 

There is a toolkit on how to develop a child protection policy available at Change the Game Academy.

Learn how to develop a child protection policy

 

Preventing children from being harmed 

Safeguarding and child protection focus on vulnerable groups organisations work with. Safeguarding focuses on prevention: all the measures taken to prevent a child from being harmed or becoming a victim of abuse or violence, in and through our joint work. In practical terms, this is about safe recruitment of staff, implementing and complying with specific policies and working in accordance with codes of conduct. Safeguarding is also about regular training on and implementation of child protection procedures, as well as ensuring that children have a voice when it comes to their safety and well-being. Child protection includes all the measures that are immediately kicked off if a child is in an unsafe situation, has been harmed and needs to be protected. 

Tools for policies 

Just for your information, we wanted to share that our Dutch partner organisations have been offered the opportunity to participate in a series of webinars that provide tools for child protection policies. The webinars are organized together with Better Care Network Netherlands and Partin. Feel free to ask your partner organisation about this, and naturally, we encourage an ongoing open discussion about this very important topic!