The Forest School Child Protection Policy

Introduction

The Forest School is committed to ensuring a safe and supportive learning environment for all children and recognises that the safety and well-being of children is of paramount importance.

The Forest School supports the roles of statutory agencies (the Police; Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Ministry of Education) and will consult with them when necessary.

The Forest School will not tolerate abusive behaviour of any kind and will promote a culture of child protection by making policies visible to parents and the community - including in enrolment information and online.

 

Purpose

This policy outlines The Forest School’s commitment to child protection and recognises the important role and responsibility of all our staff and volunteers in the protection of children. It includes The Forest School’s expectations when child abuse is reported or suspected by us.

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 requires a rigorous process for screening staff who work with children. The Forest School complies with this Act, in order to safeguard the programme from inappropriate persons. This is further outlined in the Staffing Policy.

All staff members (including contractors and volunteers) are expected to be familiar with this policy, its associated procedures and protocols and abide by them.

 

Vulnerable Children Act 2014

The Forest School will:
Improve the wellbeing of vulnerable children (Section 6)

“In relation to the setting of Government priorities under section 7 and the preparation of the vulnerable children’s plan under section 8 , means promoting the best interests of vulnerable children (having regard to the whole of their lives), including (without limitation) taking measures aimed at—

The Forest School Child Protection Policy - updated October 2017

(a) protecting them from abuse and neglect:
(b)improving their physical and mental health and their cultural and emotional

well-being:
(c)improving their education and training and their participation in recreation and

cultural activities:
(d)strengthening their connection to their families, whānau, hapū, and iwi, or other

culturally recognised family group:
(e)increasing their participation in decision making about them, and their

contribution to society:
(f)improving their social and economic well-being.”

Complete safety checks of new children’s workers (Section 25)
“A specified organisation must not employ or engage a person as a children’s worker without ensuring that a safety check of the person that complies with section 31 is completed before the employment or engagement commences.”

 

Safety Checking

All staff employed by The Forest School (including volunteers) will be made familiar

with our child protection policy before beginning their role.

All staff members (including volunteers) will be safety checked as outlined in Section 31 of the Vulnerable Children’s Act before starting in their roles at The Forest School.

The Forest School robust recruitment process includes:
*Confirmation of the identity of the person by obtaining two forms of identification.

*Obtaining a NZ Police Vetting Service Request & Consent Form or if employing staff from overseas (UK) an International Child Protection Certificate will be obtained.

*Carry out a risk assessment to assess the risk the person being employed would pose on children as outlined in The Forest School Employee Interview Process: Including an assessment of the potential candidates qualifications and experience and reference checks of current/previous employer and/or character references will be obtained.

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* The potential candidate must sign a disclosure statement to confirm that the information that they provide is true and correct.

 

Definitions

Child and Young Person - A child is someone under the age of 14 years and a young person is someone aged 14 years and over, but under 17 years who is not or has never been married or in a civil union.

Child abuse - The harming (whether physically, emotionally or sexually), ill treatment, abuse, neglect, or serious deprivation of any child/tamariki, young person/rangatahi (Section 14 Children and Young People’s Wellbeing Act 1989).

Physical abuse - any acts that may result in physical harm of a child or young person.

Sexual abuse - any acts that involve forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities, whether or not they are aware of what is happening.

Emotional abuse - any act or omission that results in adverse or impaired psychological, social, intellectual and emotional functioning or development.

Neglect - the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical or psychological needs, leading to adverse or impaired physical or emotional functioning or development.

Family violence - may be witnessed/experienced by children and involve physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

 

Training

The Forest School is committed to maintaining and increasing staff awareness of

how to prevent, recognise and respond to abuse through appropriate training. Staff are expected to act at all times within their level of experience and training,

and to consult with the programme supervisor about any concerns. As part of their induction, new staff are explained:

  • the programme policy and commitment to child protection The Forest School Child Protection Policy - updated October 2017
  • procedures for supervising children and minimising the risk of an allegation of inappropriate behaviour
  • what to do if abusive behaviour is observed
  • the process for reporting any concerns
  • how to respond to a disclosure of abuse

There will be annual in-house training about the child protection policy and appropriate external training will be accessed whenever possible – with priority given to permanent and senior staff members.

 

Identifying child abuse and neglect

All staff will be made aware of the signs of potential abuse of neglect (see below) and will always consider all available information before taking any action e.g. behavioural concerns may be the result of life events, such as divorce, accidental injury, the arrival of a new sibling etc.

Staff members are not expected to reach any conclusions about whether abuse or neglect is occurring, or what form it may be taking. They are expected to recognise and consult when something is wrong, if a pattern is noticed or several signs together cause concern.

Some signs of potential abuse / neglect

  • Physical signs of abuse: unexplained injuries, burns, fractures, unusual or excessive itching, genital injuries, sexually transmitted diseases. Neglect: looking rough and uncared for, dirty, without appropriate clothing, underweight
  • Medical neglect (e.g. persistent nappy rash or skin disorders or other untreated medical issues).
  • Developmental delays (e.g. small for their age, cognitive delays, falling behind in school, poor speech and social skills).
  • Emotional abuse/neglect (e.g. sleep problems, low self-esteem, obsessive behaviour, inability to cope in social situations, sadness/loneliness and evidence of self-harm).
  • Behavioural concerns (e.g. age- inappropriate sexual interest or play, fear of a certain person or place, eating disorders/substance abuse, disengagement/neediness, aggression).

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  • The child talking about things that indicate abuse (sometimes called an allegation or disclosure).
  • Neglectful supervision (e.g. out and about unsupervised, left alone, no safe home to return to).

 

Responding to child abuse

Under sections 15 and 16 of the Children and Young People’s Wellbeing Act 1989, any person who believes that a child has been or is likely to be, harmed physically, emotionally or sexually or ill-treated, abused, neglected or deprived may report the matter to Ministry of Vulnerable Children or the Police and provided the report is made in good faith, no civil, criminal or disciplinary proceedings may be brought against them.

The child’s safety should always be the paramount consideration in the notification process.

No decisions or actions in respect of suspected or actual child abuse are to be made by any staff member in isolation unless there are concerns for the immediate safety of the child.

A consultative approach is essential to ensure the safety of the child and the staff member. Staff must discuss their concerns with the Lead Educator or nominated person/advocate.

Decisions about informing parents or caregivers should be made after consultation between the school and Ministry for Vulnerable Children.

The Forest School will act on recommendations made by statutory agencies concerning the reporting of suspected abuse. Staff will only consult with or inform families about any suspected or actual abuse, after consulting with the appropriate statutory agencies.

When notifying the agency, a receipt or acknowledgement of the notification (written or electronic) will be requested. All information or notes concerning the notification will include date, time and name of the person receiving the notification.

Staff will respond to suspected child abuse or any concerning behaviour by writing down observations, impressions and communications in a confidential register. This will be kept separate from other programme records and enrolment information etc.

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Information volunteered by a child should be fully and accurately recorded. Staff will not interview children about the suspected, but may engage the child to collect essential information, using open-ended prompts such as “what happened after that?”

No staff member will act alone about suspected child abuse but will consult with the programme management. Where staff and programme management suspect child abuse has occurred and a child is unsafe, immediate contact will be made with the Police or the Ministry of Vulnerable Children.

Staff who are responding to cases of suspected child abuse are entitled to have support. The programme will maintain knowledge of such individuals or organisations that provide support and will assist staff to access these services as needed.

Disclosures

At times The Forest School may be faced with disclosures from children attendees, friends or family members who have concerns about the safety and welfare of a child or young person attending one of our programmes either face to face or via e-mail.

The Forest School may also be directly faced with a case (suspected or actual) of abuse or neglect of one of the children attendees, friends or family members.

In either of these cases, The Forest School will always endeavour to encourage that person disclosing the information or suspecting the information to pass on their concerns about the child or young person to The Forest School Director or Lead Educator as well as to Ministry for Vulnerable Children or the Police in the form of a Report of Concern.

Should a situation occur where the informant feels unable to make a Report of Concern to MVC or the Police then The Forest School will not keep that information in confidence if they believe doing so will continue to leave the child or young person in a dangerous or harmful situation.

The Forest School will always tell the informant of their intention to share that information with MVC or the Police and if requested ensure that the identity of the informant remains anonymous. Advice will be sought through appropriate agencies in all cases of suspected or alleged abuse.

The Forest School Child Protection Policy - updated October 2017

At times The Forest School may make contact with the informant to ensure that they have made a Report of Concern if they indicated they felt able to do so at the time of disclosure.

If during that contact it transpires a Report of Concern was not lodged, then The Forest School will inform the informant that they are unable to hold onto that information about a risk to a child or young person and that The Forest School will then lodge a Report of Concern.

The informant will always be informed that The Forest School are intending to lodge a Report of Concern with MVC or the Police and if requested the identity of the informant will remain anonymous. 

 

When an allegation of abuse is made against a staff member

Where it is suspected that child abuse has been carried out by a staff member (paid/ unpaid in any programme role), the matter will be reported promptly to the Director .

Any children involved will be protected from possible risk or trauma. The Forest School management may remove the staff member from the programme environment subject to the requirements of the applicable employment contract. All actions will be undertaken with appropriate care to maintain confidentially.

The Forest School acknowledges that the use of ‘settlement agreements’, could be contrary to the principles of child protection. Some settlement agreements allow a member of staff to agree to resign provided that no disciplinary action is taken, and a future reference is agreed. Where the conduct at issue concerns the safety or wellbeing of a child, use of such agreements will be avoided.

 

Confidentiality and information sharing

The Forest School will seek advice from Ministry for Vulnerable Children and/or the Police before information about an allegation is shared with anyone, other than the Director or designated child protection advocate.

In general, when collecting personal information about individuals, privacy and confidentiality will be maintained.

Staff may disclose information under the Privacy Act/Health Information Privacy Code where there is good reason to do so – such as where there is a serious risk to individual health and safety (see privacy principle 11/Code rule 11).

Disclosure about ill-treatment or neglect of a child/young person may also be made to the Police or Ministry for Vulnerable Children under sections 15 and 16 of the Children and Young People’s Wellbeing Act 1989.

Parents will be informed about this limitation to confidentiality in the programme enrolment information.

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Peer abuse

The Forest School will ensure that the safety of the child or young person is paramount and no form of physical, sexual or verbal harassment or violence from peers will be accepted or tolerated.

While the situation is being evaluated, the children/young people concerned will be kept separate.

In some cases, where the abuse has occurred at the programme, immediate suspension of a child may be appropriate, as outlined in the Behaviour Policy.

The Forest School will keep personal information as private as possible. Parents will also be asked to keep all information confidential to allow proper investigation and resolution.

All parents/caregivers will be kept informed about how The Forest School is responding to concerns, including meeting with staff to discuss these concerns. It is a policy of The Forest School to discourage interaction between the different parents involved and between parents and other children in the programme, while a concern is being investigated

 

Child and staff safety – supervision and conduct guidelines

These specific guidelines are concerned with minimising the risk of allegations of inappropriate conduct. They should be read in conjunction with the Staff Code of Conduct, which outlines a wider range of staff behaviour guidelines.

All staff should be aware of situations where they could be alone with children. These situations will be avoided as much as possible.

An open door policy for all spaces should be used as much as possible (i.e. not for toilets). Staff will be aware of where all children are at all times and check to ensure what they are doing is appropriate.

Staff will watch for situations where children are out of sight together (tree huts, dens, storage areas, toilets, etc.) and due to the nature of our forest programme; greater diligence in this area is essential. Staff must intervene if immediately if they suspect anything, to reduce the risk of inappropriate behaviour.

Staff will avoid being alone when transporting a child or young person, unless an emergency requires it.

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Except in an emergency (or as specified in the late collection policy), children and young people will not be taken from the programme by staff without parent consent.

Visitors to the centre will be monitored at all times by programme staff.
All volunteers and outside instructors will be monitored by The Forest School staff.

As outlined in the Code of Conduct: “Staff will provide physical comfort or reassurance when needed by children, but exercise caution and restraint when initiating physical contact or displaying signs of affection.”

Unless requested by children or parents there is usually no need to assist school aged children with toileting. Except for our students who have special learning/developmental needs and are identified specifically. If the situation arises, staff will ensure that another staff member knows who is assisting the child. Parents will be informed and/or prior consent will be given.

In some situations a child or young person may require more regular physical and or personal care assistance. Advice and assistance will be requested from parents/caregivers and specialist personnel. The Forest School will negotiate with all involved regarding appropriate procedures for giving this assistance and appropriate staff will be allocated as the key people to support children that require greater care/assistance. Eg: changing after swimming.

 

Child and staff safety – removal or restraint

Rarely, but possibly, due to the special needs of some of our students and the way in which emotions and behaviours can escalate quickly; it is essential that staff make professional yet prompt and confident decisions to ensure that all children and staff are safe.

This includes the safety of a child who may be responding in an extreme, dangerous, aggressive or harmful way towards him/herself, other students, volunteers, visitors and staff.

If a child displays extreme, dangerous, aggressive or harmful behaviour that poses being harmful or at risk to themselves or others; the child may be required to be removed from the vicinity of others to ensure he/she is not able to hurt him/herself and/or other people.

The Forest School Child Protection Policy - updated October 2017

If this situation were to arise, The Forest School staff on duty will consult the Lead Educator and/or Director and a collaborative decision will be made as quickly as possible to either: a) Remove the child b) Remove the rest of the group.

If the decision is made that the safest option is to physically remove the child displaying the behaviour; prior consent will be sought by the parents to do so.

If contact with parents or prior consent has not been possible and the child requires restraint or physical removal, to ensure the safety of themselves and others, this decision will be made collaboratively with at least one other professional staff member .

Physical removal or restraint will be done in a calm, non-aggressive and non confrontational way that ensures the safety and care of the child being removed is of utmost priority.

Two staff members will be present at all times and will record notes of the situation, actions, comments, concerns and resolution.

The child’s parents will be called immediately.
The child will be supervised by two staff members at all times.

The Forest School will always remain child focused and the welfare of the child is always of paramount importance.

As outlined in the Vulnerable Children Act 2014, Section 18 this policy is an active living document, it is reviewed every 3 years and is available on request.

 

Review schedule : Within 3 years