This document provides an overview of the Child Safe Standards and how they relate to Child Protection Staff.

Document ID number 3208, version 3, 26 October 2022.

Introduction

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. The updated Child Safe Standards came into force in Victoria on 1 July 2022.

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.

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 (the Commission) 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 works 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

The eleven Child Safe Standards are:

  1. Organisations establish a culturally safe environment in which the diverse and unique identities and experiences of Aboriginal children and young people are respected and valued.
  2. Child safety and wellbeing is embedded in organisational governance and culture.
  3. Children and young people are empowered about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously.
  4. Families and communities are informed and involved in promoting child safety and wellbeing.
  5. Equity is upheld and diverse needs respected in policy and practice.
  6. People working with children and young people are suitable and supported to reflect child safety and wellbeing values in practice.
  7. Processes for complaints and concerns are child focused.
  8. Staff and volunteers are equipped with the knowledge, skills and awareness to keep children and young people safe through ongoing education and training.
  9. Physical and online environments promote safety and wellbeing while minimising the opportunity for children and young people to be harmed.
  10. Implementation of the Child Safe Standards is regularly reviewed and improved.
  11. Policies and procedures document how the organisation is safe for children and young people.

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 SAFER children framework provides the framework for risk assessment and risk management in 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. 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 2, 3 and 7  of the Child Safe Standards requires organisations to promote and provide an environment of safety where Children are empowered about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them are taken seriously and processes for complaints are child focused. An organisation’s reporting process must be known by children and provided in an age-appropriate form.

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 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:

For information regarding the distribution of resources to children and young people in kinship care see Kinship care procedure.

Further information

Further information on the Standards is located on the department’s internet site and on the Child Safe Standards SharePoint site

For information on responding to and reporting concerns about staff conduct in the course of their duties as a departmental employee visit https://dhhsvicgovau.sharepoint.com/sites/dffh/SitePages/Reportable-conduct-scheme.aspx 

For information on responding to a report about a child who is related to someone who works at the department see procedure Reports about children related to DFFH staff and advice Reports about children related to DFFH staff.

Practice Dictionary Definition

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