Keeping children safe is everyone's responsibility. Most people working with children do so in a professional manner, aware of the boundaries of physical touch, relationship with the child and what to do if something is amiss. However, there are some individuals who seek to gain employment to cause harm to children. What processes should be in place to mitigate this risk?
Firstly, the vetting process...
This involves gathering information about an individual and then evaluating and making a decision/recommendations as to whether there is risk of activity that could place a child in harm's way. The NZ Police process vetting requests that are required as part of a Children’s Worker Safety Check under the Vulnerable Children Act 2014.
Consent must be given by an individual to be vetted, so if a person declines to be vetted, it's probably a good indicator not to employ them.
The Police vetting does not 'approve', 'decline' or make recommendations as to the employability of an individual - they simply provide information on record to the employer/provider to make that informed decision. The NZ Police vetting Request and Consent Form outlines what information Police may release to the Approved Agency including, but not limited to:
- Conviction history and infringement/demerit reports
- Active charges and warrants to arrest
- Charges that did not result in a conviction including those that were acquitted, discharged without conviction, diverted, or withdrawn
- Any interaction you have had with New Zealand Police, including family violence incidents, and investigations that did not result in prosecution
- Information subject to name suppression where that information is necessary to the purpose of the vet
Keeping your staff safe is as much of a priority as ensuring the safety and wellbeing of children in your care. You have employed a staff member and the vetting process was satisfactory - you have no misgivings about the staff member working with children. Unfortunately, in this day and age, there is risk that an action by a staff member, while made with good intentions, can be read or interpreted differently by parents/caregivers or a child may make an allegation against a staff member that needs to be investigated.
How do you prevent this from happening?
Firstly - have strict guidelines about staff presence around children; for example, some things to consider might be:
- Staff should never be alone with (a) child/ren; ensure there are enough staff to be at least a pair present at any one time.
- Ensure doors are kept open, child and staff member can be seen.
- Have very clear guidelines around appropriate physical touch with children and have this readily available for parents/caregivers to see.
- Be aware of any children who may be considered 'vulnerable' and ensure staff know what is allowed.
- Have clear and open communication with parents to alleviate any grounds for suspicion.
Check out these links below for more lawful guidelines to dealing with children and staff.