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The Difficult but Tremendously Important Concept of Safeguarding Children

Child abuse is a difficult subject to discuss. For many, it’s a difficult subject to even think about. Yet, as early childhood educators, it is important that we understand the responsibility we undertake when children come into our care. For many children, educators are their only hope in getting help and removal from abusive situations.

Some choose to deny the prevalence of abuse in the early childhood community, but consider this—every 15 minutes, a child is abused in Australia…and this only includes cases that are reported.

It is imperative that educators push beyond their comfort zones and educate themselves, not only on the signs of abuse, but on the concept of safeguarding children by creating a happy and healthy learning environment where children feel empowered and in control.

What is Safeguarding?

Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services provide a multitude of safeguarding benefits to children, including:

  • Helping them develop healthy relationships with peers and adults

  • Teaching them about the world around them

  • Exploring new ideas and concepts that interest them

  • Empowering them to use their voices to express themselves

10 National Principles for Child Safe Organisations

The Australian government commissioned the creation of ten principles to guide organisations working with children. The goal is to provide a consistent approach to creating cultures that foster child safety and wellbeing. According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, child safe organisations must commit to the following principles:

  1. Child safety and wellbeing is embedded in organisational leadership, governance, and culture.

  2. Children and young people are informed about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously.

  3. Families and communities are informed and involved in promoting child safety and wellbeing.

  4. Equity is upheld and diverse needs respected in policy and practice.

  5. People working with children and young people are suitable and supported to reflect child safety and wellbeing values in practice.

  6. Processes to respond to complaints and concerns are child focused.

  7. Staff and volunteers are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and awareness to keep children and young people safe through ongoing education and training.

  8. Physical and online environments promote safety and wellbeing while minimising the opportunity for children and young people to be harmed.

  9. Implementation of the national child safe principles is regularly reviewed and improved.

  10. Policies and procedures document how the organisation is safe for children and young people.

The Importance of Listening to Children

Sadly, it is not uncommon for children to be ignored when they try to speak up about what is happening to them. We must, as educators, take special care to encourage children to talk about their feelings and to take immediate action when something is not right.

Even young children, who may have difficulty putting their feelings into words, should be provided a variety of platforms through which they may communicate their feelings. Examples of such platforms include:

  • Drawing and/or painting people who are important in their lives

  • Gathering items that represent being healthy and happy

  • Describing spaces/settings in which they feel safe and secure

  • Creating a special sign/signal to use when they feel unhappy or worried

  • Access to private time to discuss safe or unsafe feelings

  • Reading picture books or stories about child empowerment and safety

Indicators of an At-Risk Child

Educators must remain aware of the signs and indications of a child at risk of abuse, experiencing abuse, or who feels unsafe. Keep in mind the danger does not necessarily have to come from within the home. Neighbors, extended family members, family friends, peers, and other adults who work with the child can pose a potential risk.

According to the NSW Education site , common signs of abuse and/or neglect may include:

  • Unexplained bruises or cuts

  • An unexplained shift in behavior (including, but not limited to, becoming sad, quiet, withdrawn, angry, or aggressive)

  • Self-injury

  • Reluctance to remove coats or jackets and expose skin

  • Bedwetting

  • Poor sleep

  • Inability to concentrate

  • Overly talkative or clingy

  • Unusual adult or infantile behavior

  • Developmental delays

  • Headaches or stomach aches with no discernible cause

It’s important to note that the presence of one or more of the above signs does not necessarily indicate abuse is taking place, but educators must understand the signs so that, if a behavior continues for a prolonged period of time, they are prepared to take action.

If a child does confide in you regarding abuse or neglect, it is imperative that you minimise your reaction, regardless of how troubling the information may be. Let the child know you are truly listening and contact the appropriate authorities.

Safeguarding children is a monumental responsibility, and one educators must take seriously. In many cases it is the educators who stand as the last line of defense for children in unimaginable circumstances. May we step up to the challenge and put the wellbeing of children before our own discomfort.

For any more information, call Clovel Childcare and Early Learning Centre, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. For any information about our Educational Programs, give us a call at 02 9199 0294 or fill in this contact us form.

Thanks for reading,
Clovel Childcare
1300 863 986