Ensuring that Silveira House Environment and Presence Safeguards the Rights of Children and Vulnerable Adults
Child Protection Policy
for Silveira House
Table of Contents
We begin by acknowledging that this document for Silveira House has drawn ideas and how things are said on Child Protection from several other Child Protection documents, among which the following are:
- The Child Protection Policy of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishop’s Conference
- The Child Protection Policy of the Zimbabwe-Mozambique Jesuit Province
- The Child protection policy of the Zambia- Malawi Jesuit Province
- The Child Protection Policy of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection, Zambia
- Protocol for the investigation of complaints against Clerics and Religious in regard to Sexual Abuse of Minors (South African Catholic Bishops Conference)
- Safeguarding – policies and good practices (British Jesuit Province)
- The Jesuit Policy for Safeguarding Children (Irish Province)
- Policies on Ethical Conduct in Ministry with Minors and Vulnerable Adults (Oregon Jesuit Province)
- Creating a Safe Environment in Jesuit Schools: Principles, Protocols, Standards of Practice (Australian Jesuits)
- Safeguarding Children. Standards and Guidance Document for the Catholic Church in Ireland
- Towards Healing. Principles and procedures in responding to complaints of abuse against personnel of the Catholic Church in Australia. January 2010
- Promise to Protect, Pledge to Heal. Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Essential Norms. Statement of Episcopal Commitment (revised June 2005). United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- AFAP (Australian Foundation for the Peoples of Asia and the Pacific) Children Protection Policy and Procedures
- Guide to Understanding Basic CDF Procedures concerning Sexual Abuse Allegations (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, April 2010)
Silveira House extends its gratitude to so many people including its staff who ensured, although SH at the moment does not work with children directly, that this child Protection Policy was developed and in accordance with the relevant legal principles and laws of Zimbabwe.
- The Silveira House (SH) Child Protection Policy aims at ensuring, in so far as is humanly possible, that the Silveira House work environment, and in its encounter with children in its work, at the office premises and in its outreach community operations, children feel safe, are seen to be safe and are safe.
- The Policy lays out guidelines directed towards protecting from all forms of abuse any child who is encountered by the Silveira House staff and works. The Policy also provides guidelines that will help Silveira House staff to establish a positive and conducive environment for their work with children and protect them from false or mischievous allegations. A further concern is to clarify what needs to be done when an allegation or situation of child abuse arises and to promote movement towards repairing the harm done.
- Ownership of this Policy on the part of every Silveira House staff member and generous adherence to its principles and guidelines will contribute greatly to protecting children from abuse, as well as protecting Silveira House staff and Silveira House works and ultimately the Zimbabwe-Mozambique Province of the Society of Jesus from allegations of child abuse.
- The Policy is set within the framework of the Ignatian commitment to responding to the needs of children and the Society’s ongoing dedication to their development, and the Centre’s dedication to ensuring everyone enjoys full human life.
- In keeping with international conventions that have been adopted in Zimbabwe, a child refers to any girl or boy who has not yet reached the age of eighteen years.
- While the express concern of the Policy is with children (those below the age of 18), many of its principles and approaches can provide guidance for dealings with young adults, especially those aged 18 to their mid or late twenties. The guidelines contained in this Policy may also be applied in a case of abuse committed against a vulnerable adult.
This policy is informed by thirteen broad principles of Silveira House’s commitment to promoting a faith that does justice:
- As an apostolate of the Jesuits, Silveira House is committed to affirming and demonstrating that children are an inestimable gift from God and a sign of God’s bountiful blessing.
- Silveira House and its staff remains commit to cherishing, safeguarding, caring for and valuing the children encounter during Silveira House’s work and to being good role models whom children can trust.
- Silveira House commits itself to demonstrating in practice that the right of every child to protection from harm is supreme.
- In all Silveira House’s dealings with children, its staff will ensure that the best interests of the child will be the primary consideration.
- Silveira House shall ensure that its members of staff respect, protect and fulfil the right of every child to be listened to and heard.
- Silveira House shall also ensure the right of all children to equality.
- Silveira House shall demonstrate its accountability for the protection and safety of children by establishing effective structures for dealing with suspicions, allegations and disclosures.
- Silveira House shall respond without delay to every complaint made, that a child for whom it is responsible or who has been reached out to by its work may have been harmed by a Silveira House member of staff.
- Silveira House and its staff shall cooperate fully with the civil and ecclesiastical authorities during any investigation they may make into child harm allegations concerning its member of staff.
- Silveira House shall seek to offer the necessary supportive services (including, but not confined to psycho-socio counselling, medical care and legal aid) to any child, who has experienced an abuse when under the responsibility of Silveira House or any of its members of staff or when participating in any of the activities of the Centre.
- Silveira House shall ensure that any member of staff known to have offended against a child is removed from all further contact with children, is helped to face up to the reality of abuse and is assisted in the process of healing and rebuilding his or her life.
- While working strenuously to ensure the safety and well-being of the children committed to our care, or whom we encounter as Silveira House, we will also take steps to safeguard the right of every Silveira House member of staff to be protected from false allegations and to ensure that the Centre’s policies and procedures do not stand in the way of worthwhile activities on behalf of children .
- Silveira House shall ensure that each member of staff is made aware of the contents and procedures outlined in this Policy and of his or her obligation to adhere to the guidelines that are proposed below.
Responding to the Needs of Children
The following perspectives should help in guiding Silveira House’s relations with the Children:
- Every encounter with a child should be animated by recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of children as members of the human family.
- Children need to grow up in an atmosphere of security, happiness, love, affirmation and understanding. SH recognizes that this is best ensured when they grow up in a family environment but where this is not possible that they should be placed in appropriate alternative care where they will receive the security, affection, care and affirmation needed for their integral human development.
- Children experience a strong need to know the limits they should observe in their words and behaviour.
- An imbalance in power is inherent in the relationships between an adult on the one hand and a child on the other; hence there is need to listen to children, to ensure that they have the information that is appropriate to their age and condition, and to make every effort to involve them in decision-making processes on issues that affect them.
- Children are particularly vulnerable to physical, sexual, economical, emotional and psychological abuse, as well as to exploitation and accidental harm; hence there is need to protect them from every form of abuse or exploitation and to ensure their physical safety.
- Role-models are exceptionally important to children and young people. Hence SH’s aim should always be to live, act and speak in such a way as to provide them with models that they will be pleased and proud to emulate.
Guidelines for Silveira House’s Members of Staff
The Policy presents eight guidelines for the protection of children, to be adhered to by SH members of staff:
- Avoidance of harm and scandal — never speaking or acting in ways that would have the effect of exploiting, shaming, humiliating, belittling or degrading children and never engaging in any form of sexual activity involving a child, whether the child is a participant or an observer.
- Prudence in making physical or bodily contacts with children — avoiding every form of physical contact with a child that is sexually provocative or that might give rise to misinterpretation or offence or might be seen as culturally inappropriate. SH’s members of staff should never employ any form of corporal punishment or physical discipline.
- Maintaining an environment of openness and visibility — attend to children only in rooms or places which provide a sufficiently safe environment of openness and visibility. The policy of visibility also applies to accessing children in private situations and to their access to the living rooms of SH members of staff when in outreach areas (in the field) where members of staff get accommodated in hotels, guest houses or lodges. The principles of openness and visibility should also be borne in mind when transporting a child by car.
- Respect for rights and dignity — treating all children in a manner that fully respects their dignity and rights, including their right to privacy, and their right to a say with regard to their featuring in photos or videos and to the subsequent use of these.
- All-inclusive concern — never excluding or discriminating against any child or showing undue favour towards particular children, but showing special concern for more-than-usually vulnerable children and those living with a disability.
- Openness in communication — making it easy for children to talk openly about their contacts with staff and others and providing them with information as to where and from whom they can seek help if they have a problem.
- Adopting good management practices — these include openness about meetings and outings; obtaining parental consent for the participation of their children in activities for which SH staff are ultimately responsible; keeping adequate records; ensuring physical safety and hygiene; providing adequate supervision and control; and ensuring that information and communication technology is used in an acceptable way.
- Taking action when things are not right — challenging behaviour that is abusive or potentially abusive and if necessary reporting on a situation to a responsible authority.
Ensuring the Safety of Children: Structures and Roles
- It is the responsibility of each individual SH member of staff to ensure that at all times the children who are in their care are protected from every form of sexual, physical and emotional abuse and from neglect.
- Silveira House will constitute a Commission for Child Protection.
- Silveira House will appoint a suitable individual to serve as the Centre Child Protection Officer.
Framework for Protecting Children from Abuse
The responsibility falls on every member of staff of SH to protect children from abuse. Within the Centre’s structures, however, it is the particular responsibility of the Director to ensure that:
- The Child Protection Policy has been put in place.
- The necessary structures and roles have been established.
- A Centre Child Protection Commission has been set up to ensure policy implementation and take any needed action.
- The Centre Child Protection Commission makes training available for all personnel.
- A Centre Child Protection Officer has been appointed.
- Reviews and audits with regard to child protection are carried out regularly.
Actions to be taken when there has been a Disclosure or Accusation of Abuse
- A disclosure is made, or a concern, suspicion or accusation arises.
- Details for transmission to the Centre CPO (such as the name of the person reporting; name of the alleged victim, age, relationship with alleged abuser; name, profession, age of alleged abuser; date, nature and frequency of the alleged abuse; steps taken to access remedy, etc.) are taken from the person making the disclosure or accusation.
- The person receiving the disclosure or accusation prepares a record and within twenty-four hours passes the information to the Child Protection officer (CPO).
- The CPO quickly advises the Director on the accusation/disclosure.
- Within 48 hours of their receipt, the CPO passes the matter and records to the Director.
- If a disclosure or accusation is made and the Centre CPO is not available or cannot be contacted at once (or it is inappropriate that he/she be involved), the accusation should be made known to the Director and thereafter with the appropriate civil authorities (social welfare officers and/or police).
- The Centre CPO places the matter before a meeting of the Centre Child Protection Commission which should be held no later than three days after receipt of the information and which lays out a time-bound plan of action that is guided by concern for the good of the child or children named in the case, the immediate protection of potential victims, and, until the allegation is proved, the protection of the reputation of the alleged perpetrator.
- The Centre CPO informs the Director within 48 hours about the action plan determined by the Commission, and reminds him that he is required to notify the civil and ecclesiastical authorities without delay.
- The Centre CPO meets with the accused person and informs him/her about the accusation/disclosure and the actions that are being taken. Where circumstances make it difficult for such a meeting to take place, the CPO will seek to establish direct personal contact with the accused person and to inform him/her about the matter.
- Within 48 hours of the meeting of the Centre Child Protection Commission, the Centre CPO notifies and liaises with the relevant civil authorities (social welfare officers and/or police) on what has been referred to him.
- The Director informs the local ecclesiastical authority about the matter and the action that is being taken.
- On the advice of the Centre Child Protection Commission, and pending an investigation, the Director immediately removes that member of staff who is the subject of any allegation, accusation or disclosure from any work or undertaking that may entail involvement with children.
- Immediately after sending information on the matter to the Director, CPO informs the person who made the initial disclosure or accusation about the actions that are being taken.
- Without prejudice to any investigation being conducted by the civil or ecclesiastical authorities, the Centre Child Protection Commission initiates its own investigation on behalf of SH and makes its independent report on all aspects of the matter.
- The Centre investigation will give an unprejudiced hearing to all parties involved in the matter, ensuring that the accused individual is given an opportunity to defend himself/herself (with legal support being available to the accused should he/she so desire) and that pending the resolution of the matter both the alleged victim and the accused are protected from the possibility of further harm.
Where False Allegations have been made
When it turns out that a SH member of staff has been falsely or mistakenly named in a matter of child abuse, all appropriate steps must be taken to restore his/her good name (and the reputation of SH). The Director should inform the Provincial of the Zimbabwe-Mozambique Province and the public that false and or mistaken allegations were made and that the SH staff remains in good standing within organisation. Where appropriate, a similar communication can be made through the public media. In certain circumstances it might be appropriate for the Director of the Centre to publicly reinstate the wrongfully accused member of staff. The trauma and suffering that the allegations have caused the wrongfully accused member of staff have to be recognized, with professional help being made available, if he/she feels the need for it, to help him/her recover his/her emotional and psychological equilibrium.
Where allegations have been falsely or mistakenly made against a SH member of staff, the Director will not normally pursue the matter in the courts or seek monetary redress, unless the member of staff concerned strongly feels that this should be done. However, seeing that it is a matter of justice that the member of staff involved be publicly exonerated and have his/her good name restored, and recognizing that this is a matter of great personal concern both to him/her and to SH, the Director shall take steps to ensure that the allegations are publicly withdrawn and an apology is made.
Part I: Introduction
Clarification of Terms
This section clarifies the meaning of the most important terms as used in this document, especially those with legal or technical implications.
Allegation, accusation: Allegation and accusation mean much the same, except that an accusation may be a little more precise than an allegation. An allegation or accusation is where an individual asserts that she or he has been abused, or that someone has abused someone else.
Child abuse: Abuse occurs when any other person or persons violates an individual’s fundamental and inalienable right to respect and bodily integrity. Any harm, be it physical or mental or occurring through omission, which detracts from a child’s right to a full life, constitutes child abuse. Such abuse may occur through a single act or through repeated acts. There are four broad areas of child abuse: sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and abuse by neglect. A person may be subject to more than one form of abuse during the period of childhood.
Child: any girl or boy under eighteen years of age. This is in keeping with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) which defines a child as every human being below the age of eighteen years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier (Article 1). In terms of Canon Law any person under the age of eighteen is a minor (Canon 97). Zimbabwean law also designates a child to be someone below the age of eighteen.
Concern: A concern is where one has uneasiness or doubts about the way a person is behaving, feels that something is amiss, but finds it hard to pinpoint anything specific.
Disclosure: A disclosure is where a child or young person speaks (usually on a one-to-one basis) about having experienced abuse on one or more occasions and may reveal the identity of the alleged abuser. Disclosure also occurs when a person (usually an adult) acknowledges that she or he has abused a child in the recent or distant past or is actively using a child or children for personal sexual gratification.
Emotional abuse: Emotional abuse refers to any word, action or omission that demeans a child in his or her own eyes. It consists in an attack on a child’s self-esteem or in a denial of the child’s need for affection, approval, consistency and security. It occurs when a child experiences degrading treatment, threats, ridicule, intimidation, name-calling, ignoring, or being isolated. It also occurs when a child experiences the absence of an orderly and predictable environment. Bullying, by an adult or older child, can be a form of both physical and emotional abuse, while sexual abuse almost always involves emotional abuse.
Member of staff: A member of staff is any individual who in return for a salary or wage provides services to Silveira House or Silveira House work for the purpose of facilitating its routine operations. The term refers to an employ of Silveira House.
Grooming: This is the process of preparing a child to cooperate with an adult’s sexual intentions. It includes any actions which create a situation in which a child (or vulnerable person) can be more easily abused, whether or not the actions are carried out with that in mind. There are three types of grooming:
- Grooming colleagues: somehow removing colleagues from their monitoring role, convincing them that the activities are above board – for example, explaining to others that the situation is entirely safe, or assigning other staff to duties where they are unable to see what is going on.
- Grooming the child: preparing the child, either by befriending her or him, or by frightening her or him, to go along with whatever the abuser wishes to do, and also to keep quiet about it afterwards.
- Grooming the situation: manipulating the circumstances in which one has access to the child, or removing her or him from the monitoring and supervision of others, or taking on a role in which one might be able to have inappropriate access to a child.
Silveira House – SH: A faith based organisation and a ministry of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), which strives to translate into action Christian principles and values related to promoting social justice in Zimbabwe. Its Vision is “A peaceful and just Zimbabwean Society” and its mission is “To Promote …… It was founded in 1964.
Neglect (abuse by neglect): This is a persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical or psychological needs to the extent that the child is at risk of significant harm or impairment of development. It may occur through a parent or carer failing to meet a child’s needs for adequate food, shelter or clothing, failing to protect a child from physical harm or danger, or failing to ensure access to adequate medical care or treatment. It may also include neglect of or unresponsiveness to a child’s basic emotional needs for attachment to and affection from adults or for supervision and safety.
Paedophilia: This is a criminal act that consists in sexual activity with a pre-pubescent child (generally one aged twelve years or younger). It can occur between those of the same sex or those of different sexes. A distinction must be made between having sexual fantasies, talking about them and acting upon them. A person commits the crime of paedophilia only if he or she has acted out on his or her sexual fantasies by sexual touching or penetration of the child. Collecting images showing children in sexually provocative states, storing them on a computer, and/or posting them on the internet, also constitute the criminal act of paedophilia.
Physical abuse: Physical abuse occurs when a person purposefully injures or hurts a child (or threatens to injure or hurt a child or purposefully exposes a child to the possibility of being injured or hurt). It occurs when physical force is used in any reaction to a child, as retaliation or correction for inappropriate behaviour on the part of the child, or in response to unsatisfactory behaviour on the part of the child. It can take the form of hitting, slapping, punching, pinching, kicking, burning, shoving, grabbing, shaking, using excessive force, misusing medication, providing alcohol or drugs to the child, or misusing forms of restraint. However, the use of reasonable restraint does not constitute physical abuse.
Sexual abuse: Child sexual abuse consists in contacts or interactions between a child and an adult or older child in which, whether as participant or observer, the child is used as an object of sexual gratification by the adult or older child. The child and the abuser may be of the same sex or one may be male and the other female. Child abuse can take place whether or not the activity involves explicit force, whether or not it involves genital contact, and whether or not there are discernible or harmful outcomes. It occurs when an adult, or an older or bigger child, makes some form of physical contact with a child for his or her own sexual stimulation (pleasure) or personal gratification, or for that of another. It also occurs when an adult or older child displays or creates obscene (indecent) images in the presence of a child, exposes a child to pornography, engages in indecent conversation with a child, or indulges in any form of indecent behaviour or sexual exposure in the presence of or involving a child. Sexual abuse includes defilement, rape, indecent behaviour, sexual harassment, the use of children for pornography or prostitution, sexual grooming, and all forms of inappropriate sexual touching.
Suspicion: A suspicion is somewhat stronger than a concern. It occurs when there are some worries or small signs that something wrong may be happening, but at the moment there may be no strong evidence.
Whistle-blowing: A whistle-blower is a person who raises a concern in an organization about someone’s behaviour or breaches of the required code of practice. Usually this person would be from that same organization. A whistle-blower may raise the concern internally, for example, with the person’s superior officer within the organization, or externally with regulators, law enforcement agencies or any other person entrusted with responsibility for protecting and safeguarding children. A whistle-blower may also decide to communicate the concern to the media or to a group concerned with child welfare. Jesuits and their fellow-workers must recognize that situations occur where whistle-blowing may be necessary so as to head off potential abuse or to prevent an abusive situation from becoming worse.
Chapter 1: The Silveira House Perspective
Silveira House has remained committed, through it values and work, to the promotion of a dignified life for the poor and vulnerable, which includes children. As an institution of the Society of Jesus, it follows the Society’s commitment to the right instruction and spiritual care of children as mentioned in the Formula of the Institute (Formula, §§1, 6). In addition, the instruction of children is the only ministry that receives express mention in the vow formula for final profession for a Jesuit: “I promise …. perpetual poverty, chastity and obedience; and in a spirit of submission, special concern for the instruction of children…” (Constitutions, §527). The Centre, being an apostolate of the Jesuits and in its structure some Jesuits are found, commits itself to the same.
These facts show the high regard that St. Ignatius and his successors had for responding to the needs of children. The history of Jesuit commitment to the education of children, and to getting young people involved in parish and other apostolic activities, bears witness to the Society’s fidelity to its earliest inspirations and to its ongoing dedication to the development of children.
As SH, we are spurred by the desire to serve God by promoting the values enshrined in the social teaching of the Church and coming to the help of others. As a faith based organisation we are energised in our work through our solidarity with the poor, the marginalized and the voiceless, among whom children occupy a position that is of supreme importance to us. With their example, SH and its staff is taught how to live a full and intimate relationship with God by developing as Centre values the qualities that characterise children as children: trust, confidence, openness, wonder, simplicity, tenderness, a willingness to ask, a readiness to receive, a capacity for generous service.
SH affirms that each child is a human person endowed from the moment of conception with an inalienable dignity, sanctified life and irreducible worth. Being created in the image and likeness of God, each one is of inestimable value and supreme importance, a pearl of great price that must at all times be cherished and safeguarded.
The words of Jesus remind us that children can be very vulnerable, especially in their ingenuous innocence and in their search for the security that will prepare them to face life’s challenges. In response to this need, SH is determined to ensure that all children with whom its staff interact or who are committed to SH’s care flourish in a secure and protective environment where they instinctively know that they are respected and safe.
As an apostolate of the Jesuits, SH is expected to abide and reflect the spirit of the Jesuits in its work. Therefore guided by the Jesuit Constitutions, SH is advised to participate in the preservation and accept the guidance of the Society by drawing up rules and guidelines as an aid to progress along the way of God’s service (Constitutions, §134).
This document therefore provides guidance for SH as an apostolate of the Jesuits and all its members of staff or employees on protecting children from abuse. It also outlines procedures for dealing with situations in which children may have suffered from any form of abuse in their relationships with SH’s work or and its members of staff. Following the guidance of St. Ignatius in the Preamble to the Declarations, efforts have been made to ensure that the guidelines that follow
- are complete and provide as far as possible for every contingency;
- are clear, so as to minimise the hazard of troublesome doubt; and
- are brief so that they are kept easily in mind (Constitutions, §136).
The SH Child Protection Policy aims at ensuring, in so far as is humanly possible, that
- where SH and its members of staff are and work, children feel safe, are seen to be safe and are safe;
- where SH members of staff are engaged in undertakings for which the Centre is ultimately responsible, children feel safe, are seen to be safe and are safe;
- in every SH’s work and activity, children feel safe, are seen to be safe and are safe.
The first and foremost concern of this Policy is to protect from all forms of abuse any child who is reached out to by SH’s works and or members of staff whilst on duty. A secondary concern is to provide guidelines that will help SH and its members of staff establish a positive and conducive environment for their work with children and protect them from false or mischievous allegations. A further concern is to clarify what needs to be done when an allegation or situation of child abuse arises and to promote movement towards repairing the harm done.
SH is aware that developing this Policy and making it widely available makes the Centre and its members of staff vulnerable in the event that its provisions are not followed.
It is critically important that this Policy and its ownership be accepted on the part of every member of staff of SH. During its preparation phase, a draft was circulated to every member of staff of SH soliciting their input and reactions. It is therefore needed now that every member of staff becomes prayerfully familiar with the contents of this document and adheres to them in practice. Generous fidelity to the principles and guidelines that appear in the pages that follow will contribute greatly to protecting children from abuse, as well as safeguarding the Centre and its members of staff from allegations of child abuse.
The Policy is laid out in four parts.
- Part I introduces the topic, sets out the thrust and scope of the policy, and outlines the broad principles that inform SH Child Protection Policy.
- Part II deals with the protection of children in the special care of SH and or its members of staff. This Part gives child protection guidelines to be adopted every SH member of staff. It also describes the structures and roles needed within the SH’s context for ensuring the safety of children. This Part closes with a schematic overview of the framework for protecting children from abuse.
- Part III deals with the procedures to be followed when an allegation or case of child abuse arises. As with Part II, this Part also closes with an overview of the actions to be taken when there has been a disclosure or accusation of abuse.
The document also includes some annexes that spell out in greater detail some of the material referred to more briefly in the body of the text, and appendices that give specimen pro-formas in case there should ever be need for these.
The SH Child Protection Policy is informed by the following broad principles of Jesuit commitment under whose mandate it operates:
- As an apostolate of the Jesuits, SH is committed to affirming and demonstrating that children are an inestimable gift from God and a sign of God’s bountiful blessing.
- SH and its staff remains commit to cherishing, safeguarding, caring for and valuing the children encounter during SH’s work and to being good role models whom children can trust.
- SH commits itself to demonstrating in practice that the right of every child to protection from harm is supreme.
- In all SH’s dealings with children, SH staff will ensure that the best interests of the child will be the primary consideration.
- SH shall ensure that its members of staff respect, protect and fulfil the right of every child to be listened to and heard.
- SH shall also ensure the right of all children to equality.
- SH shall demonstrate its accountability for the protection and safety of children by establishing effective structures for dealing with suspicions, allegations and disclosures.
- SH shall respond without delay to every complaint made, that a child for whom it is responsible or who has been reached out to by SH’s work may have been harmed by a SH member of staff.
- SH and its staff shall cooperate fully with the civil and ecclesiastical authorities during any investigation they may make into child harm allegations concerning a SH member of staff.
- SH shall seek to offer the necessary supportive services (including, but not confined to psycho-socio counselling, medical care and legal aid) to any child, who has experienced an abuse when under the responsibility of SH or any of its members of staff or when participating in any of the activities of the SH.
- SH shall ensure that any member of staff known to have offended against a child is removed from all further contact with children, is helped to face up to the reality of abuse and is assisted in the process of healing and rebuilding his or her life.
- While working strenuously to ensure the safety and well-being of the children committed to our care, or whom we encounter as SH, we will also take steps to safeguard the right of every SH member of staff to be protected from false allegations and to ensure that SH’s policies and procedures do not stand in the way of worthwhile activities on behalf of children .
- SH shall ensure that each member of staff is made aware of the contents and procedures outlined in this Policy and of his or her obligation to adhere to the guidelines that are proposed below.
Part II: The Protection of Children
Chapter 3: SH working with Children
Although at the moment SH does not directly work with children, children are among the beneficiaries of our work and at one time SH may have to work with children directly or through families.
The Gospel tradition shares with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of children as members of the human family. Responding to this, every SH member of staff will conduct him/her self at all times in a manner whereby children’s rights and needs are always recognized and, to the extent possible, are given priority. In this respect, SH with its members of staff will ensure that at all times they value and esteem children as individuals and treat them with the highest standards of respect and courtesy. Moreover, in all SH’s dealings with children, the best interests of the child will always be the primary consideration.
SH will ensure that children receive care and affirmation from SH’s members of staff. This will help them feel valued and encouraged. On the other hand, SH will ensure that as much as possible its members of staff while on SH’s work live, behave and speak in such ways as never to offend, demean or disempower children.
An imbalance in power is inherent in the relationships between an adult on the one hand and a child on the other. Children can have their process of growth into adult status slowed. Their growth can be fostered by appreciating their many positive contributions. Hence all SH’s interactions with children should highlight in word and action the importance of
- listening to them and respecting their opinions;
- ensuring that they have the information that is appropriate to their age and condition;
- encouraging and praising them;
- acknowledging their efforts as well as their achievements;
- wherever possible and appropriate, involving them in decision making, above all in issues that affect them.
Because of their age and limited experience, children are particularly vulnerable to physical, sexual, economical, emotional and psychological abuse, as well as to exploitation and accidental harm (the latter sometimes due to failure to recognize their limits). Every SH member of staff should respond to such vulnerability by determined efforts to maintain and promote an environment that protects the child from every form of sexual, physical, emotional and psychological abuse and from neglect and exploitation. SH and its members of staff should also strive to ensure the physical safety of the children entrusted to their care.
Finally, role-models are exceptionally important to children and more is expected from all members of staff of SH. SH’s aim therefore should always be that its members of staff live, act and speak in such a way as to provide the children with whom they interact with models that they will be pleased and proud to emulate.
In as much as SH is a church institution, an apostolate of the Society of Jesus and in whose structure the Jesuits work, the spirit of protecting and promoting the rights of children are paramount, hence the importance of being in union with what the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe is saying and taking a critical moment in reading the signs of the time with regard to protecting the rights of children. The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishop’s Conference has its own safeguarding policy that affects all Catholic institutions in Zimbabwe. The principles espoused in the policy remain relevant to SH as a Catholic institution.
The guidelines that follow have been inspired by the principles in the ZCBC policy, as well as by the thirteen broad Jesuit principles listed in Chapter 2 above. They are proposed by the Jesuits for observance by all their fellow-workers in all their dealings with children, whether they act in an individual or institutional capacity.
As a Church institution, gospel and professional standards of responsibility challenge all SH members of staff to make sure that in all their words and actions they never scandalise or harm one of these little ones who believe in Christ. Hence SH members of staff should endeavour at all times to provide an example of good conduct in their dealings with children. They should never speak or act in ways that would have the effect of exploiting, shaming, humiliating, belittling or degrading them. They should avoid relationships with children that could in any way be deemed exploitative or harmful and should not act in ways that may be abusive or might place a child at the risk of abuse as they carry out their duties.
Therefore SH members of staff while on duty should never
- engage in any form of sexual activity involving a child whether the child is a participant or an observer;
- engage with a child in sexually oriented conversations or in the discussion of sexual activities (unless such discussion is clearly related to their work or the giving of professional guidance);
- present any child with sexually inappropriate printed or electronic materials, videos or photographs (or make such materials). In addition, they should ensure that for as long as they are in their immediate charge children do not access improper or pornographic material on the internet;
- use any form of over-familiarity or unfitting language that might lead to confusion, anxiety or misunderstanding among children;
- speak to children in ways that are unduly harsh, threatening, intimidating, derogatory, demeaning or humiliating;
- provide alcohol, tobacco or any psychotropic drug to a child.
Every SH member of staff is expected to exercise prudent judgement in initiating and responding to physical or bodily contact with children:
- It is suitable for SH member of staff to make appropriate physical contact with children in such culturally endorsed ways as hand-shaking, giving a comforting hug or affirming touch, or holding hands when walking, as these are ways of showing legitimate friendliness towards another and can be positive expressions of care and concern for the well-being of another.
- They should never behave physically in a manner which is inappropriate or sexually provocative (or could be construed as being sexually provocative).
- They should avoid any form of physical contact with a child that might give rise to misinterpretation or offence or might be seen as being culturally inappropriate.
- They should never hit or otherwise physically assault a child or employ any form of corporal punishment or physical discipline – such as slapping (with the hand, stick, belt or similar object), punching, or hitting – for managing the behaviour of children or as a means of correction or punishment for inappropriate, disruptive or wrong behaviour or unsatisfactory performance.
SH members of staff should added to or work with children only in rooms or places which provide a sufficiently safe environment of openness and visibility. They should ensure that another adult is present or close by when they provide psychosocial counselling to children. If this is not possible, they should at least make sure that when working with children the possibility of their being observed by others remains and that, if they must work with a child in a place not open to public view, the door is not closed.
To safeguard against situations that could lead to misunderstanding or facilitate abusive behaviour, children should not be allowed to work or remain at SH premises or any place of work unless there are at least two adults present. SH members of staff should avoid spending excessive time alone with a child away from others and should not regularly seek the company of the same child/children.
The policy of visibility also applies to accessing children in private situations and to children’s access to the living room of any SH member of staff while on duty in outreach areas/in the field:
- Wherever possible, SH members of staff should avoid being alone with a child or a group of children in their sleeping rooms.
- They should never sleep in the same bed as a child and, unless the cultural context suggests otherwise, should avoid sleeping in the same room.
- They should never invite a child into their bedrooms.
The visibility and openness policy applies also to the transportation of children. As much as possible, SH members of staff should avoid taking a child in their car alone unless it is their biological children. When they do carry children, they should bring them direct to their destination without any unnecessary stops.
Recognizing the physical and emotional boundaries appropriate to a relationship between an adult and a child or young person, SH members of staff will treat all children in a manner that fully respects their dignity and rights, including their right to privacy. They will help each child develop an awareness and understanding of their own rights and a respect for the rights of others. They will never condone or participate in behaviour by children which is illegal, unsafe or potentially abusive or harmful. While responding to the needs of children, they will never do anything of a personal nature for a child that the child can do for her- or himself.
Respect for the rights and dignity of children requires sensitivity and prudence when taking photographs or making videos of children involved in SH-related activities or events. In general, photographs and videos should be made only with the approval of the child’s parents or guardians and with the consent of the child; they should never display the child in a compromising situation, and should subsequently be used only in situations agreed to, explicitly or implicitly, by the child and the child’s parents or guardians.
Wishing to witness to God’s inclusive and all-embracing love for every person, SH members of staff will never exclude or discriminate against particular children or show undue favour towards particular children. On the other hand, recognizing that especially vulnerable children and those with special needs or disability may depend more than other children on adults for their care and safety, they will ensure that such children are carefully listened to and treated in an especially sensitive manner.
Because of the vulnerability of children to abuse, SH members of staff will develop a culture where children can talk openly about their contacts with staff and others and will provide children with information as to where and from whom they can seek help if they have a problem.
Good management practices help in establishing environments where children who are involved with SH members of staff feel safe, are seen to be safe and in fact are safe from every form of abuse. Good practices minimise the potential for sexual, physical and emotional abuse and the possibility of neglect or accidents. They also help in involving parents and guardians in matters relating to their children or children for whom they are responsible.
Good management shows itself in the areas of openness about meetings and outings; obtaining parental consent for the participation of their children in activities for which SH members of staff are ultimately responsible; keeping adequate records; ensuring physical safety and hygiene; providing adequate supervision and control; and ensuring that information and communication technology is used in an acceptable way.
Finally, SH members of staff should be prepared to challenge behaviour that is abusive or potentially abusive. If they notice that one of their colleagues or fellow-workers does not follow the guidelines set out above, they will have to challenge this person and invite him or her to review his or her conduct. If the person does not change his or her behaviour, they shall report the matter to the institutional Child Safeguarding Person. Even though “whistle-blowing” is not a pleasant course of action to have to take, SH members of staff will not hesitate to report a matter or on another person when the circumstances seem to be such that this is necessary in order to check potential abuse or to prevent an abusive situation from becoming worse.
It is the responsibility of each individual SH member of staff to ensure that at all times the children who are in their care are protected from every form of sexual, physical, psychological and emotional abuse and from neglect. But just as the Centre entrusts responsibility for selected areas to specific individuals, without taking away from each one’s personal responsibility in these areas, so also with the protection of children. Each one retains an inalienable responsibility to promote children’s well-being and safety. But for the better achievement of this, the supreme management of the Centre commits specific responsibilities for the protection of children to the SH Commission for Child Protection, to a person appointed by the Director (the Centre Child Protection Officer).
SH as an institution will establish a Centre Commission for Child Protection to be chaired by the Child Protection Officer for the Centre. In addition to the CPO, the Commission shall comprise at least two other SH members of staff, a female and a male, and two lay Catholics of good standing and from various walks of life (the media, child care, psychology, counselling, theology, civil law, canon law, academia, education, parents and parish representatives). It will have the overall responsibility of ensuring that the Centre policies and procedures for child protection are publicized, implemented and monitored in all SH outreach areas and works.
The specific responsibilities of the Commission will be to:
- Organize training seminars and workshops for SH members of staff on policies and procedures for the protection of children in our care.
- Oversee the implementation in all SH’s works of the policies and procedures contained in this Centre Child Protection Policy.
- Liaise regularly with the person responsible for child protection in Zimbabwe-Mozambique Province with a view to ensuring awareness of developments in legislation, policy and practice.
- Liaise on child protection matters with the relevant civil authorities (social welfare officers and/or police), professional bodies, other religious congregations, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishop’s Conference, and other national offices for child protection.
- Every three to five years, audit implementation of the Centre Child Protection Policy and review its content and procedures.
Further, the Commission will also undertake the following functions:
- Receive referrals of allegations and suspicions that any SH member of staff has been engaged in child abuse.
- Liaise closely with the Director regarding specific cases.
- Where an allegation of child abuse has been made ensure with appropriate speed that the relevant civil authorities are involved.
- Ensure that the Centre has brought an allegation of child abuse to the attention of the Society of Jesus (Zimbabwe-Mozambique Province) and other relevant ecclesiastical authorities.
- Initiate its own investigation into the case on behalf of the Centre and make its independent report on all issues pertaining to it.
- Take account of any immediate danger to children and recommend appropriate action.
- Provide support in regard to decision-making in individual cases.
- Ensure appropriate steps are taken in relation to an accused person while enquiries are under way.
- Consider the pros and cons of insurance policies that would enable the Centre meet financial claims arising from possible cases of abuse and advise the Centre accordingly.
- Seek legal guidance on the extent of the Centre’s liabilities with regard to cases of child abuse on the part of any SH member of staff.
- Consider the pros and cons, including the financial implications, of appointing a lawyer to assist in child abuse cases, and advise the Centre accordingly.
In conducting its independent investigation, the Centre Commission will ensure that the voices of all concerned are heard – the victim, the accused and the one making the accusation or disclosure – and will enable any party that so desires to be supported by legal representation. It will also take whatever steps are necessary to protect the various parties from all possibility of further harm or traumatisation. Recognizing the fragility of children, the Commission will strive to ensure that the investigation is conducted in a child-friendly manner, such as conducting meetings involving the child in a homely, relaxed manner, ensuring that where feasible a parent, guardian or trusted older person accompanies the child, and making sure that the child does not feel guilty about what is being discussed but finds that talking about the issue helps in the growth of self-esteem. If necessary, the Commission will engage a child specialist who will help the child in speaking the truth without fear or anxiety.
The Centre Director will appoint a suitable person to serve as the Centre Child Protection Officer (CPO). The CPO will have overall responsibility, as the Centre’s delegate, for all matters relating to SH’s policy, procedures and actions for the protection of children entrusted in any way to the SH members of staff.
The CPO will chair the Commission for Child Protection and receive information about allegations or suspicions of child abuse made against any SH members of staff. Equipped with a thorough knowledge of the Centre Child Protection Policy and procedures, the Child Protection Officer shall liaise with the Director during all stages of investigations into allegations of child abuse against a member of staff.
The CPO shall coordinate the activities of the Commission for Child Protection. The CPO shall meet a member of staff alleged to have abused a child or young person in order to listen to his/her side of the story and give him/her whatever support is needed. This should not be seen as condoning what might prove to be reprehensible or even criminal behaviour. Neither should it be interpreted as an admission of guilt on the part of the accused.
The CPO shall ensure that the procedures for responding to suspicions, allegations and disclosures of abuse involving SH member of staff are known and, in a specific case, are being followed. After notifying the Director of the matter, he/she shall refer the case to the relevant statutory authorities, such as a social welfare officer or an officer of the Victim Support Unit.
Working together with the Commission for Child Protection, the CPO shall advise and support the Director in deciding the future of the employee where there has been a conviction for child abuse, or where the occurrence of such abuse has been admitted or established, but there has been no conviction.
Finally the CPO shall oversee the periodic evaluation and review of the principles and procedures outlined in the Centre’s Child Protection Policy.
In order to enable SH members of staff develop the necessary attitudes, skills and knowledge, the Centre Child Protection Commission will facilitate the provision of training in child protection policies and procedures and on relevant aspects of civil and Church law and procedures. Among other things, this training will be directed to enabling every SH member of staff worker to appropriate the Centre Child Protection Policy in as personal and deep a manner as possible. It will also seek to promote good understanding of how the Policy responds to the cultural environment in Zimbabwe and how it can be applied.
Overview of Framework for Protecting Children from Abuse
Policy in place
SH Centre Commission set up to ensure policy implementation and take any needed action
Centre Child Protection Officer appointed
Training available (via Centre Commission) for all personnel
Good management practices in place
Reviews/audits carried out regularly at outreach level
Part III: Responding in Cases of Actual or Alleged Sexual Abuse of Children
Chapter 7: Procedures to be Followed in Dealing with Concerns, Suspicions, Allegations, Accusations or Disclosures that a Child has been Sexually Abused
Up to this point, this policy document has dealt with establishing an environment in which children will be safe. The present Chapter moves to a different concern and deals with what one should do in situations where a child has or may have been abused. In doing so, it has to take account of civil and church legislation and at times adhere to the legalistic style in which directives are framed. However, since it is outlining the concrete steps that must be taken in abuse cases, it makes a deliberate effort to engage the reader by speaking directly to him or her. This accounts for the extensive use of “you” in much that follows.
Church legislation deals specifically with sexual abuse. Civil legislation also deals with sexual abuse, but goes further to cover physical abuse, emotional and psychological abuse and abuse by neglect, as well as all forms of child exploitation. It should be borne in mind that even though the central concern in this Chapter is on what to do in situations of sexual abuse, there may also be need to involve the civil authorities where physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, abuse by neglect or any form of child exploitation has occurred or might occur.
Every SH member of staff should follow the same basic procedure whenever there is a concern, suspicion, allegation, accusation or disclosure relating to child abuse: in each and every instance, the matter should always be referred to the Centre Child Protection Officer (CCPO).
Once you have a concern or suspicion, you should talk to the CPO about it, even though there has been no allegation, accusation or disclosure. You should make this referral whether the concern, suspicion, allegation, accusation or disclosure arises from your own personal experience or whether the matter has come to your attention through somebody else.
The only exception to what has been said in the two previous paragraphs is when the local CPO seems to be implicated in the case. In such circumstances, you should refer the matter to the Director (unless he/she is implicated) and to the Society’s Child Protection Officer (CPO). Should the CPO of the Jesuits be involved, you should report the matter directly and as a matter of urgency to the Provincial.
Any SH member of staff can receive an allegation or disclosure of child abuse. The person making the complaint is paying you a tribute by bringing the matter to you, though s/he is also placing a great responsibility on your shoulders. If for any reason you feel that you are not able to deal with what is being put before you, you should arrange with the complainant to bring the matter to the Centre Child Protection Officer. Bear in mind, however, that this might be something that the complainant would not be emotionally able to do at this stage and that the outcome might be failure to deal with what could be a dangerous situation.
It can be very difficult for a person, and especially for a child, to make a disclosure or allegation of sexual abuse. Hence it is important that you do whatever you can to create a welcoming environment in which the person feels that it is safe to talk about the matter and that this is the right thing to do.
It can also be very painful to receive a disclosure or allegation of child sexual abuse. You may have to listen to very serious and possibly criminal allegations about a close friend, a trusted colleague, or a respected member of the SH. Try to listen with an open mind that hears the complaint but does not jump to conclusions about the guilt of the alleged abuser. If what you are hearing shocks, distresses or disillusions you, do not allow these feelings to show. If you do, you may upset the person giving the information and inadvertently dissuade him or her from giving any further information.
Be careful in the way you respond to anonymous allegations or concerns about child abuse that may come your way by phone, letters or through the internet. While fear or anxiety may prevent people from revealing their identity, they should be informed that it will be almost impossible to take any follow-up action unless the name and contact details of the person raising the concern or making the allegation are known. But the local Centre Child Protection Officer should be informed even of such anonymous allegations, in case there is any preventive or remedial action that can be taken.
The information given must be fully and accurately recorded. Where possible and practical, and with the permission of the person making the allegation or disclosure, take notes during the conversation. But in all cases, make a complete written record as soon as possible afterwards, and never later than the close of the day of interview, and sign and date this record.
In the written record give as much factual information as possible — name, age, gender and contact details of the person making the allegation or disclosure, and similar factual details. Appendix 3 gives guidance on what the written record might contain.
Include as much detail as you can remember from the conversation. Do not leave out details that may seem to be unimportant – a detail that seems irrelevant may in fact prove to be significant.
- Within 24 hours of completing your report, bring the matter to the attention of the Centre Child Protection Officer and hand over to the CPO a copy of the record of the conversation with the person who made the allegation or disclosure, while retaining the original record and keeping it safe.
- Leave all further action to the Centre CPO, except in a case of emergency where a child seems to be at immediate and serious risk; in such a case bring the matter directly to the attention of the Director and in conjunction with them to the local social welfare personnel, police or equivalent authority.
- Apart from sharing information with the Centre CPO and/or the Director, maintain strict confidentiality on the whole matter. In particular, do not share any of it with the alleged victim, with the person or persons alleged to have committed the abuse and, as far as possible, maintain your relationship with both of these parties as it had been in the past. Confidentiality also extends to the family members of the one making the disclosure or allegation and to family members of the one alleged to have been abused: do not share any of what you have learned with any family member either of the one providing the information or of the alleged victim.
Guidelines issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in April 2010 require that the civil law concerning the reporting of sexual abuse of a minor to the appropriate authorities should always be followed. Hence, every allegation or accusation of child abuse by a SH member of staff must be reported as quickly as possible to the civil authorities, that is, to the relevant social welfare authorities, to the police Victim Support Unit, or directly to the police if there is no such unit in the local police station.
Contact with the civil authorities will normally be initiated by the Centre CPO. However, where it is not possible for the CPO to do so, or to do so quickly enough, or where, for whatever reason, the CPO cannot or should not be involved, the Director of the Centre should bring the matter to the police and continue to liaise with them until such time as the Centre Child Protection Commission has made other arrangements.
The police can be expected to open a file on the case and to commence a civil investigation. All SH members of staff should cooperate in every way possible with this investigation. The civil authorities should be facilitated in accessing all relevant documentation, even of a personal or confidential nature, including material or records held on computers or cell-phones. If required, each SH member of staff should also provide the civil authorities with oral testimony relating to the matter, with nothing being concealed from them.
The Director or the Centre CPO should inform the Society of Jesus (Provincial) in advance before initiating contacts with the police or other civil authorities on a matter of child abuse implicating a SH member of staff in so far as SH is Jesuits work. If the Provincial cannot be accessed immediately, contact with the civil authorities should go ahead, but the Provincial should be informed as quickly as possible about the steps that are being or have been taken.
Without prejudice to any investigation being conducted by the civil authorities, the Centre Child Protection Commission should conduct its own investigation on behalf of SH and make an independent report to the Director on all aspects of the matter. The Centre investigation will give an unprejudiced hearing to all parties involved in the matter, ensuring that the accused individual is given an opportunity to defend himself/herself and that pending the resolution of the matter both the alleged victim and the accused are protected from the possibility of further harm.
The purpose of this investigation is not to set up an independent tribunal of inquiry, parallel to whatever the civil authorities may have established. Instead the inquiry conducted by the CPC has the twofold purpose of seeing where things may have gone wrong so as to reduce the likelihood of similar incidents occurring in the future, and of determining how the Centre can initiate the process of healing for all of those involved in the case. In other words, the inquiry conducted by the CPC is not primarily judicial. Instead it should be viewed more from preventative and justice perspectives.
It could happen, however, that the investigation on the part of the Centre might point in the direction of outcomes different to those determined by the civil or ecclesiastical authorities. In such circumstances, the CPC must ensure in its report (and the Director in his subsequent actions) that justice prevails and is seen to prevail. Guided by these principles, the Centre might find it necessary to request that the civil or ecclesiastical authorities reopen the case (whether the accused has been found guilty or has had the charges dismissed). He might also find it necessary to impose sanctions on an accused person who, in the unanimous agreement of the Child Protection Commission, has abused a child, even though, because of the technicalities and stringencies of the law, that person has had the charges dismissed. But even in these circumstances, preventative concerns should be uppermost considerations.
- A disclosure is made, or a concern, suspicion or accusation arises.
- Details are taken from the person making the disclosure or accusation.
- The person receiving the disclosure or accusation prepares a record and quickly passes the information to the Centre Child Protection Officer (CPO).
- The CPO advises the Director on the accusation/disclosure.
- No later than 48 hours after receiving information on a disclosure or alleged abuse, the CPO passes the matter and records to the Director.
- If a disclosure or accusation is made and the Centre CPO is not available or cannot be contacted at once (or it is inappropriate that he be involved), the Director reports to and liaises with the civil authorities.
- Within three days of receipt of information on a disclosure or alleged sexual abuse, the Centre CPO places the matter before a meeting of the Centre Child Protection Commission which lays out a time-bound plan of action that is guided by concern for the good of the child or children named in the case, the immediate protection of potential victims, and, until the allegation is proved, the protection of the reputation of the alleged perpetrator.
- Within 48 hours of the meeting of the Centre Child Protection Commission, the Centre CPO informs the Director about the action plan determined by the Commission, and reminds him of the need to notify the civil and ecclesiastical authorities without delay.
- Where possible, the Centre CPO meets with the accused person in order to inform him/her about the accusation/disclosure and the actions that are being taken.Where circumstances make it difficult for such a meeting to take place, the Centre CPO will seek to establish direct personal contact with the accused person and to inform him/her about the matter.
- Within 48 hours of the meeting of the Centre Child Protection Commission, the Centre CPO notifies and liaises with the relevant civil authorities (social welfare officers and/or police and/or traditional authorities) on what has been referred to him/her.
- On the advice of the Centre Child Protection Commission, and pending an investigation, the Director immediately removes a SH worker who is the subject of any allegation, accusation or disclosure from any SH work or undertaking that may entail involvement with children.
- Immediately after sending information on the matter to the Director, theCentre CPO informs the person who made the initial disclosure or accusation about the actions that are being taken.
- Without prejudice to any investigation being conducted by the civil or ecclesiastical authorities, the Centre Child Protection Commission initiates its own investigation on behalf of the Centre and makes its independent report on all aspects of the matter.
- The individual in question is informed about the outcome of this investigation and is given an opportunity to defend himself/herself.