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Child Protection Policy

  1. Introduction

VLN supports the rights of children and is committed to their safety and well being through awareness, prevention and reporting of and responding to child abuse in the course of its work. VLN child protection policy is based on common values, principles and beliefs and describes the steps to be taken to our commitment .       

  1. Vision

A child friendly nation with the environment that guarantees the rights and protection of all children.

  1. Mission

a) Our child protection policy will reach out every child in need and ensure their rights of care and protection through the 4 Cs:

b) Connect through technology to reach the target.

c)  Catalyze systems through active advocacy.

d) Collaborate with integrated efforts the children, the civil society and the state including communities and the corporate to build up a child friendly social order.

e) Communicate for making child protection is everybody’s priority.

       4. Objectives

To ensure practice of the highest level of child protection standards.

To ensure a well defined and practiced reporting mechanism for child protection violations and time bound redressed system.

To ensure assessment and management of child protection risk in the provided spaces.

To ensure that there are basic minimum standards of child protection adhered to by all concerned with VLN.

To generate awareness and consciousness in child protection.

  1. Scope of VLN child protection policy

The policy applies to all VLN members, employees, contractors, sub – contractors or any associated  with VLN.

  1. Definition of a child

The definition of child is ‘every human being below the age of 18 years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.` This is in accordance with the article 1 of the United Nations Convention on the rights of a child.                                                  

  1. Definition of child protection

Child protection means protecting children from any perceived or real danger/risk to their life, their childhood or personhood. It is about reducing their vulnerability to any kind of harm and in harmful situations. It is also about protecting children against social, psychological and emotional insecurity and distress. It must ensure that no child falls out of the social security and safety shield and those who do, receive necessary care and protection to be brought back under the safely shield.

Child protection refers to protection from violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect. It is integrally linked to every other right of children. Every child has a right to protection. This not only includes children in difficult circumstances or they have suffered violence, abuse and exploitation but also includes children who are not in any of these adverse situations and yet need to be protected in order to ensure that they remain within the social security and under the protective shield.

  1. Definition of Child Abuse

General definition:  Child abuse or maltreatment constitutes all forms of physical and/or emotional ill treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitations resulting in actual or potential harm to the child`s health survival, development or dignity in the context of relationship of responsibility, trust or power.

Physical Abuse: Physical abuse of a child is that which results in actual or potential physical harm from an interaction or lack of an interaction which is reasonably within the control of a parent or person in a position of responsibility, power or trust. There may be single or repeated incidents.

Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse includes the failure of providing a developmentally appropriate, supportive environment, including availability of a primary attachment figure so that the child can develop a stable and full range of emotional and social completions commensurate with her or his personal potentials and in the context of the society in which the child dwells. There may also be acts towards the child that cause or have a high probability of causing harm to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development. These acts must be reasonably within the control of the parent or person in a relationship of responsibility, trust or power. Acts include restriction of movement, patterns of belittling, denigrating, scapegoating, threatening, scaring, discriminating, ridiculing or other non-physical forms of hostile or rejecting treatment.

Emotional Abuse : Emotional abuse includes the failure of providing a developmentally appropriate, supportive environment, including availability of a primary attachment figure so that the child can develop a stable and full range of emotional and social completions commensurate with her or his personal potentials and in the context of the society in which the child dwells. There may also be acts towards the child that cause or have a high probability of causing harm to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development. These acts must be reasonably within the control of the parent or person in a relationship of responsibility, trust or power. Acts include restriction of movement, patterns of belittling, denigrating, scapegoating, threatening, scaring, discriminating, ridiculing or other non-physical forms of hostile or rejecting treatment.

Sexual Abuse: Child sexual   abuse is the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared and cannot give consent, or that violate the laws or social taboos of society. Child sexual abuse is evidenced by this activity between a child and an adult or another child who by age or development is in a relationship of responsibility, trust or power, the activity being intended to gratify or satisfy the needs of the other person. This may include but is not limited to:

The inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity.

The exploitative use of child in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices.

The exploitative use of children in pornographic performance and materials.

 Neglect and negligent treatment

Neglect is the failure of providing children with development in all spheres:  health, education, emotional development, nutrition, shelter and safe living condition, in the context of resources reasonably available to the family or care takers and cause or has a high probability of causing harm to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development. This includes the failure to properly   supervise and protect children from harm as much as is feasible.

  1. Exploitation

Commercial or other exploitation of a child refers to use of the child in work or other activities for the benefit of others. This includes, but is not limited to, child labor and child prostitution. These activities are to the detriment of the child’s physical or mental health or both including educational, spiritual and moral or social- emotional development.

      10. Principles and values

VLN adopts the following five guiding principles as a basis of its child protection policy:

  • Zero tolerance of child exploitation and abuse:– VLN will not tolerate child exploitation and abuse. Through enactment of this policy we endeavor to reduce the risk of child exploitation and abuse associated with program activities. We will not knowingly engage directly or indirectly anyone who poses an unacceptable risk to children and will, to the extent of the law and policy, discipline those who exploit or abuse children in the cause of delivery of our program.
  • Recognition of the best interests of children :- some children, such as children living in poverty or areas affected with disasters, are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. VLN will ensure everybody who works with children is aware of these vulnerabilities and makes every effort to keep the best interests of children at the forefront of this work.
  • Sharing responsibility for child protection:– VLN will work with donors, partners, and all to effectively manage risks to children.
  • Risk management approach:- VLN will assess the risks to children in its programs and through implementation of and in compliance with this policy work to manage those risks.
  • Procedural fairness:- VLN will process reports and suspicions of exploitation and abuse as set forth in its whistle – blower and other ethics policies.

Code of conduct

VLN is dedicated to protecting the rights of children. It recognizes the need of honesty, integrity and the respect for the child to reflect both in decisions of the organization as well as in the conduct of its personnel. Hence, VLN articulates code of conduct for its personnel.

      12. Personnel should

a) Respect the privacy and dignity of each and every child.

b) Be visible working with children at the work place.

c) Ensure that a culture of openness exists that facilitates children to interact and express their issues and concerns with staffs in the settings.

d) Respect and encourage children’s voices and views.

e) Make efforts to ensure children’s participation in decision making that effects their lives.

f) Inform children about steps of interventions being taken in his or her context.

g) Uphold privacy of the child by not disclosing identity of child to anyone who may put the child at risk.

h) Uphold the privacy of the child by not disclosing the identity of the child to the media.

g) Educate children about their rights, issues of abuse, neglect and exploitation.

h) Ensure that there are same sex chaperons/ escorts for children.

i) Record movement of children while sending them to schools/hospitals/ referral service centres/ even in repatriation/ restoration.

       13. Personal Should Not

a) Touch, hug or caress a child.

b) Spend time with children alone.

c) Stay in a room alone with a child for an extended period.

d) Allow interaction with a child in a closed environment without supervision of the person in charge.

e) Sleep alone with a child.

f) Take children to resident of team members/coordinators/directors for the night.

g) Do things for children of a personal nature that they can do themselves.

h) Engage children in personal work or employ children at work or at home.

i) Use language and expressions that is found inappropriate to a child.

j) Use corporal punishment or tolerate it by the staff.

k) Make any physical gestures in a manner that appears to be inappropriate or sexually provocative.

l) Develop any relationship with children which could be assumed as exploitative to abusive.

m) Discriminate children on the basis of complexion, language, disabilities or physical features leading to differential treatment.

n) Stigmatize or humiliate a child.

o) Act in a manner that put children at risk.

p) Give gifts directly to children.

q) Patronize any services that employ children.

r) Take any photographs that would violate the child’s dignity or privacy in any way.

  1. Reporting Principles

Reporting suspected or actual child abuse is mandatory for all staff, volunteers, consultants and contractors. No VLN staff or partner will prejudice their own position or standing with VLN by responsibly reporting someone who they believe is breaking the Child Protection. Responsible reporting also means that any person making a report should bear in mind that all concerns are allegations until they have been investigated. For this reason, it is important for anyone raising a concern to follow the specific reporting guidelines set out below. In particular, confidentiality is expected within the reporting chain.                                                                                                                         

  1. Reporting Procedures

All staff should normally discuss their concerns with their immediate senior personnel, be it a Project personnel or a Head of Department. Where staffs are unable or unwilling to do this, they must raise their concerns with VLN MC Member. Any information provided to the MC Member will be handled with strict confidentiality and who will only take action if breaches of the Child Protection Code of Conduct can be proven conclusively.

Discussions made with senior personnel or with the MC Member should focus on:

evidence that the Child Protection Code of Conduct has been broken;

the identified risks to the child/children;

measures to safeguarding children and minimize risk;

action/next steps;

assessment of the reported concerns and support needs;

Whether, and at what stage, the issue should be reported to external bodies and

Appropriate response, e.g. disciplinary process or urgent action if children are judged to be at risk.

Senior personals should consult and seek support from other colleagues as necessary.

         16.Specific Reporting Guidelines

a) Any concerns, allegations or disclosures must be recorded in writing, signed and dated, and communicated as soon as possible to Senior Personnel.

b) Records should be detailed and precise, focusing on what was said or observed, who was/were present and what happened. Speculation and interpretation should be clearly distinguished from reporting.

c) Any concern, disclosure or allegation is alleged rather than proven at this point. All such records should be treated as extremely confidential. They should be passed only to the persons specified in these specific reporting guidelines. It is the responsibility of each individual in possession of the information to maintain confidentiality.

d) However, confidentiality cannot always be guaranteed. It must be made clear that following the steps in this policy is an obligation. Explanations should be given about the possible outcomes that could result from information being reported.

e) In certain instances, there will be the obligation for VLN and its staff to report concerns to the appropriate external bodies. This will usually occur as a consequence of the reporting procedure. However, if urgent action is required in order to protect children then it may be prior to the reporting procedure.

         17.Training

VLN is committed to educating staff and others on the Child Protection Policy, how to reduce risks and create child safe environments. We will promote child safe practices which keep children safe in the organization and in their own community, and provide information about child protection to the children and communities in which we work. This information will include reporting child abuse if they have concerns about a VLN staff.

As part of its child protection training, VLN will:

provide comprehensive written documents on VLN’s Child Protection Policy to all new staff/partners;

incorporate extensive information on the VLN Child Protection Policy in the briefing procedures for new staff;

provide child protection training for staff assigned in projects where they will work directly with children.

        18.How to recognize abuse

Listed below are a number of indicators of abuse. However, they may vary by cultural and economic context. It should be noted that this list is not exhaustive but a guideline to help establish whether some form of child abuse or exploitation has taken place.

18.1  Emotional signs of abuse:

a) sudden under achievement or lack of concentration;

b) inappropriate relationships with peers and/or adults;

c) changes or regression in mood or behavior, particularly where a child withdraws or becomes clinging;

d) depression or extreme anxiety;

e) nervousness, frozen watchfulness;

f) obsessions or phobias;

g) persistent tiredness;

h) running away/stealing/lying.

18.2  Indicators of possible physical abuse:

a) any injury inconsistent with explanation given to them;

b) injuries to the body in places not normally exposed to falls, rough games, etc;

c) reluctance to change for, or participate in, games;

d) repeated urinary infections or unexplained tummy pains;

e) bruises, bites, burns, fractures, etc., which do not have a reasonable explanation;

f) infections and/or symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases;

18.3  Indicators of possible sexual abuse:

a) any allegations made by a child concerning abuse;

b) excessive preoccupation with sexual matters and detailed knowledge of adult sexual behavior, or engaging in age in-appropriate sexual play;

c) sexually provocative or seductive with adults;

d) sudden changes in mood or behavior

e) open displays of sexuality;

f) lack of trust in familiar adults; fear of strangers;

g) general bruises, scratches or other injuries not consistent with accidental injury;

h) acting out behavior – aggression, lying, stealing, unexplained running away, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide attempts.

18.4 Indicators of possible neglect:

  • frequent lateness or non-attendance at school;
  • inadequate care.

We know that a child needs is love.

We remember the Bengali Poet’s line “ A child’s father sleeps in every child’s heart”

 

The Human Resource Policy and the Child Protection Policy are approved by the Managing Committee of Vivekananda Loksiksha Niketan in the Resolution No. 14    Dated.  17.01.2019