Child Protection is about protecting children from or against any perceived or real danger or risk to their life, their personhood and childhood. It is about reducing their vulnerability to any kind of harm and protecting them in harmful situations. It is about ensuring that no child falls out of the social security and safety net and, those who do, receive necessary care, protection and support so as to bring them back into the safety net. While protection is a right of every child, some children are more vulnerable than others and need special attention. In addition to providing a safe environment for these children, it is imperative to ensure that all other children also remain protected. Child protection is integrally linked to every other right of the child. Failure to ensure children‘s right to protection adversely affects all other rights of the child.
The Constitution of India guarantees children equal rights as citizens and equality before law. It also mandates the States to make laws that specifically promote the rights and welfare of children. The State Governments are responsible for framing child protection policy to ensure safe and secure environment for all children especially for vulnerable children, opportunity for development, prevention and protection from all forms of violence. Further, it is the duty of the State Governments to provide all the children within the state the right to survive, be protected from abuse, neglect and exploitation, enjoy fully the development rights and participate in decision that affect them according to their age and level of development.
The essence and the principles of a State child protection policy should reflect in the working environment of all the stakeholders, State and District offices dealing with children including child care institutions. It is the duty of every State/UT to train its staff dealing with children and sensitize the community on child protection issues.
Therefore, keeping children safe is everyone‘s responsibility. Organizations and professionals who work with children are required to ensure that their policies and practices reflect their responsibility towards children. A child protection policy which drives its source from State policy provides guidelines for organizations and their staff to create safe environments for children. It is a tool that protects both children and staff by clearly defining what action is required in order to keep children safe, and ensuring a consistency of behavior so that all staff follow the same process.
A child protection policy also demonstrates the commitment of organizations and professionals to children and ensures public confidence in its safe practices.
Protection Norms for a Child Care Institution (CCI)
- Every Child Care Institution shall have a written specific Child Protection Policy (CPP) in conformity with the State Child Protection Policy.
- Every CCI should display its child protection policy at a prominent place.
- Every CCI shall have systems of ensuring that there is no abuse, neglect and maltreatment of children.
- The CPP in a CCI should include a zero tolerance policy towards corporal punishment.
- The CPP in a CCI should include a zero tolerance policy towards child abuse.
- All laws, rules, guidelines and SOPs by the Central and State Governments related to child protection and children shall be adhered to strictly.
- The CPP should specifically mention about treating disabled children with dignity and care.
- The CPP of a CCI should be signed by all the staff and management of a CCI.
Elements of Child Protection Policy
- All employees would face a standardized recruitment process.
- In the recruitment process the resume and photograph should be taken before the interview.
- Any recruitment advertisement should reflect the child protection statement.
- During the interview process, relevant questions should be asked to assess the candidate‘s attitude and sensibilities regarding child protection. The assessment may be based on a checklist of parameters that would enable assessment of suitability. Explanations for matters that include gaps between duration of employment, frequent change of jobs, or sudden resignation will be sought.
- The applicant should provide complete contact information of at least three referees along with the resume. For each candidate a thorough reference check should be carried out with the previous employer or the academic institute attended by the candidate (if a fresh graduate).
- At the time of employment, the CCI should also take the following from each employee - Proof of identity, Proof of Residence (both temporary and permanent), PAN Card, Aadhaar Card, Letter of experience and good conduct from the previous employer, Attested proof of academic/ educational qualifications/ previous work experience. Original documents should be verified. Each employee should undergo a medical examination prior to employment. The same should be filed in the personnel record.
- All new recruits should be provided with a copy of the CPP which includes the Code of conduct
- All new recruits are to sign an undertaking acknowledging receipt of the CPP, and stating their agreement and acceptance to all components of the Policy.
- Each employee should be oriented to child protection and the CPP within a week of recruitment in the CCI
- It is the responsibility of the institution to ensure that the CPP is understood and signed by all employees, teachers, staff and volunteers including management.
- The CPP must be translated into local languages.
- The CPP must have a short interactive child friendly version to enable children to understand their protection rights in the CCI.
- Performance Appraisal System [PAS]
- The PAS is to include credits for chil d protection sensitivity.
- In case there is no PAS, the CCI shall ensure six - monthly Child Protection Review. Every individual shall be assessed for adherence to the code of conduct and implementation of the CPP. Child Protection Review must allow for peer evaluation for child protection compliance.
- In case of any observations, report about suspicion of child protection violation, the complaint & redressal mechanism should be invoked.
- Staff development and capacity building
- The staff shall be trained and sensitized of what constitutes abuse, neglect and maltreatment as well as early indicator of abuse, neglect and maltreatment and how to respond in such situations.
- Orientation to child protection must receive special focus in all staff development and capacity building programs.
- Protection of staff needs to be discussed at length as staff members also face threats and various risks in the course of their work.
- Staff should be trained to handle needs of special need children in the CCI.
- Every CCI should not associate itself with organizations that engage in activities of child labour. The associate organization would need to: not employ child labour have zero - tolerance of any form of child exploitation and abuse; not patronize any service that may be exploitative to children.
- All spaces within the CCI shall be accessible to children and have all necessary safeguards and precautions in place to ensure the child‘s safety.
- All residential and classroom premises shall be constructed in a manner so as to keep children in a safe and protected zone.
- The space shall be well lit and well ventilated.
- All spaces within the CCI shall be accessible to children with disability and shall be barrier free and shall have all necessary safeguards and precautions in place to ensure their safety.Every CCI shall be equipped with a First Aid Kit.
- The contents of a first aid kit should allow the user:
- To act safely and be guarded against body fluid contact.
- To control visi ble bleeding.
- To stabilize bone trauma.
- To prevent victim heat loss and deterioration into shock.
- To protect wounds.
- Scissors and a torch can be useful.
- The kit should be packed in a solid, visible and protective container.
- A summary sheet should be placed inside the kit, the step - by -step guidance and telephone numbers of the emergency services.
- Communication and display of information on child protection
- All information and communication about child protection must be written in the local language and clearly displayed in one common area or location within the premises of the CCI.
- The display of information on child protection in a home should include information on complaint mechanism and all whom a child can approach in the event of any grievance, which may be such as :
- Management Committee members, Police (100), CHILDLINE (1098), fire and ambulance service, medical service, counsellor, child representative in the Management Committee and the Children's Committee be approached.
- Complaints/ Suggestion Box
- Every CCI should have a Children‘s Complaints/Suggestion Box which allows the child to complain/ voice his/her concern anonymously.
- This box should be installed at a place easily accessible to children. It should be kept away from the range covered by the CCTV camera.
- The complaints/suggestions should be checked every week by the Chairperson of the Management Committee or his representative from DCPU , in the presence of the members of the Children‘s Committees.
- In all decisions, the best interest of the child will be taken as the primary consideration. This also implies that in case of conflicts, the child's welfare will be a priority.
- Counselling services and therapeutic intervention will be available to all children and/or family if and when the need arises and/or it is requested.
- The institution will work actively with parents, the community, police, Civil Society Organizations and other engaged stakeholders to ensure the child‘s safety and overall development during the period of his/her stay.
Code of Conduct
Staff, Employees, duty bearers should
- Ensure that a culture of openness exists that facilitates children to interact and express their issues and concerns with staff for children's personal, physical, social, emotional, moral and intellectual development.
- Encourage and respect children's voices and views.
Be inclusive and involve all children without selection or exclusion on the basis of gender, disability, ethnicity, religion or any other status.
- Be aware of the potential for peer abuse and develop special measures/supervision to protect younger and especially vulnerable children from peer and adult abuse (eg: children bullying, discriminating against, victimising or abusing children).
- Avoid placing oneself in a compromising or vulnerable situation when meeting with children.
- Immediately report the circumstances of any situation which occurs which may be subject to misinterpretation.
- Inform children about steps of interventions being taken with respect to them or in the context of their lives.
- Make oneself aware and educated on the laws, rules and guidelines related to child protection as amended from time to time.
- Keep data about the children and youth in CCI confidential.
- Ensure the responsible use of computers and other information technology and refrain from inappropriate usage, especially that relating to the creation, viewing, downloading or distribution of any inappropriate or offensive material, including, but not restricted to, abusive images of children, pornography or child pornography.
- Report all concerns regarding actual or potential child abuse, mistreatment or any other violation according to the reporting a nd responding system.
- Ensure that there are staff members of the same sex when escorting the child between locations and also when taking care of the child/children at any location.
- Record all decisions of movement of children to hospitals or referral service centres or even in the case of repatriation/ restoration.
- Ensure good and constructive working relationships with all co - workers.
Staff, Employees, duty bearers shall not
- Kiss, hug, fondle, rub or touch a child in an inappropriate or culturally insensitive way.
- Sleep alone with any child.
- Use corporal punishment or tolerate corporal punishment by the staff.
- Act in any manner that puts children at risk.
- Turn out a child from the residential home/facility.
- Use language that will mentally or emotionally abuse the child.
- Never threaten a child.
- Never use abusive language.
- Never tease/ mock a child or call out nicknames.
- Act in any way that intends to embarrass, shame, humiliate or degrade a child.
- Show discrimination of race, culture, age, gender, disability, religion, sexuality, or any other status.
- Develop a sexual relation with a child.
- Give cash or any kind of gifts directly to children.
- Do things of a personal nature that a child could do for him/herself, including dressing, bathing and grooming.
- Initiate physical contact unless initiated by the child (e.g.:holding hands).
- Suggest inappropriate behaviour or relations of any kind.
- Allow children to engage in sexually provocative games with each other.
- Stand aside when they see inappropriate actions inflicted by children on other children because it is frequent and commonplace.
- Take children to the residence of any staff member/ superintendent for the night.
- Engage children in personal work or employ children at work or at home.
- Use his/her position for his/her own benefit or for the benefit of family or friends.
- Work under the influence of intoxicating substances such as alcohol or any other substances that significantly impair ability to do the job assigned.
- Take any photograph that would or could potentially violate the child‘s dignity, or privacy in any way.
Behaviour Protocols for volunteers & other visitors (in addition to the above)
- Shall not give cash or any kind of gifts to the children directly but instead it should be contributed to the CCI.
- Shall not take/collect photos, videos, or stories of children and/or upload the same on blogs or any social networking sites without prior permission from the authority concerned.
- Shall not ask personal details of the child and if known, then not to divulge it to others.
- Shall not encourage any kind of infatuation.
- Shall not ask any child to meet alone outside campus.
- Shall take children for outings only in groups and with prior permission of Person in-charge of CCI.
Behaviour of a Child in CCI
The children in the CCI will be oriented and trained to follow the rules and standards of good behaviour. Every unacceptable behaviour shall be taken note of by the Children‘s Committee and the child found in violation of rules may be made to give an explanation. The Children‘s Committee may recommend appropriate action to the Person - in-charge. A copy of the report containing the description of the incident and the action taken thereupon shall be submitted to the Board or the Committee or the Children‘s Court by the Person-in-charge within twenty-four hours. A copy of same shall also be placed before the Management Committee for planning a long term strategy for prevention of such incidents. A copy of the report shall be kept in the case file of the child concerned.
The Person-in-charge may deal with the violation appropriately giving due consideration to the recommendation of the Children‘s Committee and the safety and dignity of the child. The Person-in-charge may seek the assistance of the counsellor or the Child Welfare Officer or Case Worker, any non-governmental organization associated with the Child Care Institution in dealing with the situation.
Behaviour Protocols for Children
- Respect all staff, teachers, parents and outsiders.
- All relevant information should always be given to the concerned staff.
- Share information and learning with other children.
- Never threaten a child.
- Never use abusive language.
- Never tease/mock a child or call out nicknames.
- Never rag a child.
- Never physically assault or sexually abuse another child.
- Never spread rumours about another child, or details about the child which could be socially humiliating.
- Never discriminate on the basis of race, culture, age, gender, disability, religion, sexuality, or any other basis
- Never force another child to give away his/her personal belongings.
- Report all concerns regarding actual or potential child abuse, mistreatment or any other violation according to the complaint/reporting and responding system.
- Manner of dealing with unacceptable behavior:
- The action taken shall be commensurate with the nature and degree of violation and the age of the child and may be any of the following: (i) formal warning; (ii) assignment of house - keeping tasks; (iii) imposition writing i.e. writing a number of times that he shall not repeat the behaviour; and (iv) forfeiture of privileges viz. permission to watch television, permission to go for outdoor activity, sports and recreation and other preferred activity.
- No child shall be subject to corporal punishment or any mental harassment including humiliating behaviour affecting the dignity of the child.
- Exceptional Good behavior of a child :The following shall be considered good behavior, namely:
- Following the rules of discipline and adhering to the routine, assessed over a period of a month
- Preventing, any other child from indulging in any unacceptable behaviour or preventing violence.
- Preventing any mishap by raising an alarm, evacuating other children in case of disaster.
- Assisting any officer of the Child Care Institution in maintaining order. For the House representatives, in situations that may develop into an emergency, the behaviour before the sounding of the alarm would be considered.
- Informing the Child Welfare Officer of any plan of creating unrest or of escape.
- Inform the Person-in-charge about any prohibited article or contraband.
- Helping another child to come out of his trauma.
- Performing exceptionally well in an examination in continuation of his studies, or vocational or rehabilitation courses.
- Positive and adaptive behavior.
- Any other good behaviour as found exceptional by the Person -in-charge.
Reward or Benefits for maintaining exceptional behavior: A child showing exceptionally good behaviour shall be considered for appropriate reward or benefits by the Person-in-charge and note of the same shall be placed in the case file of the child. The rewards to a child, at such rates as may be fixed by the management of the institution from time to time, may be granted by the Person-in-charge as an encouragement for good work and good behaviour and at the time of release, the reward shall be handed over after obtaining a receipt from the parent or the guardian, who comes to take charge of the child or child himself.
Complaint & Redressal Mechanism
- Every institution shall have systems of ensuring that there is no abuse, neglect and maltreatment and this shall include the staff being aware of what constitutes abuse, neglect and maltreatment as well as early indicators of abuse, neglect and maltreatment and how to respond to these.
- In the event of any physical, sexual or emotional abuse, including neglect of children in an institution by those responsible for care and protection the following steps may be considered:
- Children may report to –any staff member in the institution/Person-in Charge of the CCIJJB/ / Children‘s Committee/ Management Committee/1098 Childline Services.
- The staff member must report the incident immediately (within 24 hours) to the Person-in-Charge.
- In case the Person -in-Charge is involved the complaint must be placed before the JJB/ Management Committee.
- Following which the Person -in-Charge:
- must place a report of the same (within 24 hours) before the Board or ,Children‘s Court who in turn, shall order for special investigation.
- shall also in form the chairperson of the management committee and place a copy of the report of the incident and subsequent action taken before the management committee in its next meeting.
- shall depute a counsellor and/or another adult who the child may be comfortable with, to counsel the child.
- The Board or Children‘s Court shall:
- direct the local police station or Special Juvenile Police Unit to register a case, take due cognizance of such occurrences and conduct necessary investigations.
- take necessary steps to ensure completion of all inquiry and provide legal aid as well as counselling to the CCL or child victim.
- transfer such a child to another CCI or a fit person.
- consult Children‘s Committee setup in each institution to enquire into the fact of abuse and exploitation as well as seek assistance from relevant voluntary organizations, child rights experts, mental health experts or crisis intervention centres in dealing with matters of abuse and exploitation of children in an institution.
- in the event of any other crime committed in respect of children in institutions, it shall take cognizance and arrange for necessary investigation to be carried out by the local police station or Special Juvenile Police Unit.
- The Management Committee shall:
- If there is a problem or suggestion that requires immediate attention, the Chairperson of the Management Committee shall call for an emergency meeting of the Management Committee to discuss and take necessary action.
- The CCI shall, within a period of twenty-four hours, intimate the emergency contact person, a responsible family member or guardian of the child, of the offence and ensure that such person is aware of the reporting procedure to be undertaken by the institution. Exception: In case the offence has or apprehend ed to have been perpetuated by a family member or such emergency contact person, the institution shall inform any other family member or guardian.
- If there is a requirement for any forensic test or DNA profiling, the institution shall ensure that at all times through that process, a responsible adult with whom the child is comfortable, accompanies the child. Female child must be accompanied with a female staff only.
- The CCI shall ensure that a competent person, preferably from the Management Committee, takes over the supervision and responsibility of filing the FIR. A copy of the FIR shall be maintained by the CCI.
- The CCI shall be liable for any breach of confidentiality of the identity of the child and details of the offence during the reporting procedure.
- In accordance with the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, if the statement of the child is to be recorded within the institution, adequate arrangements shall be made such that the child is in a comfortable and friendly environment enabling him or her to disclose all the necessary information.
- An enquiry, in accordance with the CPP of the institution, shall commence no later than 24 hours after the incident has been reported.
- The Management Committee of the institution shall, based on the recommendation of the JJB/Children‘s Court, suspend the accused pending the outcome of the enquiry. In these cases, the welfare and best interest of the child will be of paramount consideration.
- The outcome of complaints and the redressal mechanism shall be informed to the child or their representative within 15 days of the complaint being made.
- All suggestions received through the suggestion box and action taken as a result of the decisions made in the emergency meeting or action required to be taken shall be placed for discussion and review in the monthly meeting of the Management Committee.
- The complaints and action taken by the Management Committee are duly recorded in the Children‘s Suggestion Book and such action and follow up shall be communicated to the Children‘s Committees after every monthly meeting of the Management Committee.
- The child welfare officer/ case worker shall similarly keep a record of the complaints made by the child with regard to the facilities in the Child Care Institution with a note of the steps taken thereon.
Source : Living conditions in institutions for children in conflict with law - A manual by Ministry of Women and Child Development
- The overall implementation of the Child Protection policy would be the responsibility of the Person-in-charge of the CCI.
- All agreements/ contracts/ Terms of reference between CCI and its associates would need the acceptance and adherence to the CPP, duly signed and acknowledged.