Child Safe Standards
This advice provides an overview of the Child Safe Standards and how they relate to child protection staff.
Document ID number 3208, version 2, 17 April 2018.
In January 2016, the Child Safe Standards (Standards) were introduced by the Victorian Government in response to the Victorian Parliament’s Betrayal of Trust Inquiry which found that while the majority of children are safe in organisations, there are inadequate and inconsistent approaches to child safety.
Under the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 (the Act), the Standards are compulsory for all Victorian organisations that provide services or facilities for children, including the Department of Health and Human Services (department).
Pursuant to the Act, the department is both a ‘relevant entity’ to which the Standards apply (as a provider of services to children) and a ‘relevant authority’ of organisations that it funds or regulates to deliver services to children.
The Commission for Children and Young People has oversight and regulatory responsibility for the Standards. Where organisations have an existing funding or regulatory relationship with the Victorian Government or statutory bodies, the Commission will work collaboratively with and through these bodies to promote and monitor compliance with the Standards. The Commission will work closely with those sectors not currently subject to regulation.
The Child Safe Standards
There are seven Standards which are:
- strategies to embed an organisational culture of child safety, including through effective leadership arrangements - such as introducing child safe standards in new staff orientation and induction programs
- a child safe policy or statement of commitment to child safety
- a code of conduct that establishes clear expectations for appropriate behaviour with children - such as providing all child protection staff with the department’s Child Safe Code of Conduct and ensure the code is discussed in team meetings
- screening, supervision, training and other human resource practices that reduce the risk of child abuse by new and existing personnel
- processes for responding to and reporting suspected child abuse
- strategies to identify and reduce or remove risks of child abuse
- strategies to promote the participation and empowerment of children.
The Standards aim to drive cultural change in organisations so that protecting children from abuse is embedded in the everyday thinking and practice of leaders, staff and volunteers. This will assist organisations to:
- build a culture of child safety and identify and mitigate risks to child safety
- make child safety everyone's business
- set clear expectations for staff in relation to child safety
- apply a child safety lens to existing and new policies and practice
- build upon existing policies and practice to address any gaps and implement continuous improvement
- recruit child-safe staff and volunteers
- enable staff and volunteers to feel empowered to act in the best interests of children when they have safety concerns
- avoid scope for doubt and indecision, which can lead to inaction and tolerance of inappropriate behaviour
- prevent child abuse, encourage reporting and improve responses to any allegations of child abuse - within the organisation
- give parents comfort and confidence in the kind of culture, environment and experience they can expect for their child
- benefit the organisation as it gains valuable information about how children experience its organisation.
Principles underpinning the Child Safe Standards
In applying each Standard, organisations must reflect and embed the following three key principles in their approach:
- promoting the cultural safety of Aboriginal children
- promoting the cultural safety of children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
- promoting the safety of children with a disability.
The principles recognise the challenges children from these cohorts may encounter in reporting incidents of abuse, and the importance of culturally safe and inclusive environments.
How Child Safe Standards relate to child protection staff
Child protection responds to reported concerns about children at risk of significant harm from child abuse and neglect within their family as legislated under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005. Child protection practice is governed by the best interests principles, including that the best interests of the child must always be paramount and that the need to protect the child from harm, protect their rights and promote their development must always be considered. The best interests case practice model provides the framework for child protection practice.
The Standards guide how, as a workforce, child protection will conduct its work with children in a way that promotes and provides for the child’s safety and wellbeing. Introduction of the Standards is an opportunity for child protection practitioners to think about how child protection and out-of-home care services are able to continually improve policies, procedures and practices that keep children, for whom they are responsible, safe.
All departmental staff have a responsibility to:
- promote diversity and inclusion for all children
- conduct their work in a way that promotes and protects children’s safety and wellbeing
- consider risks to child safety and the implementation of strategies to remove or reduce risks
- comply with departmental policy and practice related to child safety
- report to their line management any misconduct, reasonable belief or allegation of abuse of a child within the department.
Promoting complaints awareness to children and young people
Standard 5 of the Child Safe Standards stipulates that organisations have a responsibility to promote and provide an environment in which children are encouraged to speak up when they are uncomfortable or concerned. An organisation’s reporting process must be known by children and provided in an age appropriate form. Standard 7 asserts that children have unique insights into their lives, their needs and the world around them. They have a right to be heard and have their concerns and ideas taken seriously, particularly on matters that affect them, including how to keep them safe.
Child protection practitioners play an important role in helping children understand how to raise any matters of concern to them about their care. A range of child friendly complaints resources for children and young people in out of home care are available on the department’s child friendly compliments and complaints webpage to assist child protection practitioners with this process.
Resources on the webpage include:
- An online animation that promotes the complaints awareness of children and young people in out of home care.
- A child friendly complaints and feedback form.
- Contact details for organisations that can provide support.
- A factsheet for children and young people and a factsheet for carers that provides further information on complaints processes and the resources available.
Other relevant resources include:
- A fridge magnet that promotes the department’s complaints line (available at all child protection divisional offices)
- Planet Right and Getting It Right (Create)
- The Charter for Children in out of home care
For information regarding the distribution of resources to children and young people in kinship care see Kinship care procedure.
For information on responding to and reporting concerns about staff conduct in the course of their duties as a departmental employee visit https://intranet.dhhs.vic.gov.au/unsatisfactory-work-performance-and-misconduct-vps.
For information on responding to a report about a child who is related to someone who works at the Department of Health and Human Services see procedure Reports about children related to DHHS staff and advice Reports about children related to DHHS staff.