Today Sydney Catholic Schools launched its Child Safe Communities Framework, an initiative that provides 152 Sydney-wide Catholic schools with a vision and a set of guiding principles and resources that will assist school communities to develop positive and practical student safe and wellbeing approaches.
The initiative will include activities, videos and suggested procedures for schools and parents to discuss with children to raises awareness of the rights of all children to be safe and protected.
Focusing on the importance of creating a child safe culture, Dr Dan White, Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools (SCS), said that the SCS Framework provides explicit guidelines to inform how our school, parish and parent communities work together to make this a reality.
“Protecting children is everyone’s business,” Dr White said. “Stronger communities keep children safe, and it is important to remind our students that they are seen and heard, their participation is valued, and their families can gain the support they need.”
Dr White said that Sydney Catholic schools have developed a range of policies and procedures over many years to ensure the safety and wellbeing of every student.
“At SCS we have always been dedicated to upholding the values and practices that create child-safe schools. This Framework reaffirms our commitment and shows parents that we have looked at the recommendations of The Royal Commission and we are starting from a position of strength by already aligning our practices with the recommended elements for Creating Child Safe Institutions.”
As the Framework rolls-out, school communities will benefit from new web material and continuous training that will focus on warning signs and risk factors, as well as clear action plans.
“Ensuring we have child-safe schools goes to the heart of our faith and our core purpose,” says Dr White. “This Framework will ensure that we continue to strengthen our kids, our families and our communities and collectively continue to foster a culture of child safety.”
For more information and resources, visit Sydney Catholic Schools’ Child Safe Schools website.
Empowering kids with safety skills
As early as age 3, children can understand that parts of their body are private. It is important to start a conversation at home with your children about how certain body parts – those covered by swimwear – are private, and what is appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. The safety and self-esteem of your child is more important than anyone’s embarrassment, inconvenience or offense. Here are five tips* to help you get started:
- Use real names for body parts
Avoid using made-up names to refer to your child’s private parts. “It makes kids think that there is something weird or shameful about their bodies, and they’ll be less likely to tell you if someone touches them,” says Sharon W. Doty, author of Keeping Them Safe.
- Think beyond “stranger danger”
80 to 90 per cent of abuse is committed not by strangers but by someone the child knows well—and possibly loves. While it is good advice to instruct your child not to talk to strangers, you also need to be mindful of who they spend time with on a daily basis. Irene van der Zande, Founder and Executive Director of Kidpower, says, “when people ask her to tell them what a child molester might look like she says, ‘Look in the mirror – a molester can look just like anyone else!”
- Don’t keep secrets
Sex abusers almost always manipulate children by telling kids, “Oops! I just said a bad word. Please don’t tell your parents, because then we couldn’t have fun together any more,” says Ms van der Zande. Remind your child frequently that no adult should ever ask them to keep secrets. And that includes you because if you keep a secret with your child, it confuses the message.
- Believe your child and listen
Establish faith and trust with your kids. If you’re constantly questioning what they say, they may be more reluctant to tell you if something has happened to them. When you’re talking about inappropriate touching, let them know—explicitly—that you will believe them and that you will never be mad. “Even if you made a mistake or did something wrong, I will love you and help you. Please tell me about anyone whose behaviour makes you uncomfortable even if we really like this person so we can figure out what to do to keep everyone safe,” says Ms van der Zande.
- Know what to look for
You can’t drive yourself crazy being suspicious of every adult that comes into contact with your child, but you can watch our for red flags. Be suspicious if someone:
- singles out your child as “special” (true professionals are not so transparent about preferences)
- prefers spending most of their time with children over peers
- allows children to do things that their parents don’t allow
- makes fun of children’s body parts or describes children with sexual words such as “stud” or “sexy”
- strikes you as odd and puts themselves in a position of dealing with children; and/or
- tries to get your child alone.
If you suspect abuse
Act Quickly. Stop Contact. Call NSW Police and Department of Family and Community Services.
Child Protection Helpline on 132 111
NSW Ombudsman 9286 1000
Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse 1800 737 732
24/7 telephone Counselling and online crisis service 1800 099 340