Slide outline: Involving children in child-safe organisations

CFCA webinar - 8 December 2015

  1. Protection through participation: Involving children in child-safe organisations
    • Tim Moore, 2016
    • Australian Government, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Child Family Community Australia
    • Institute of Child Protection Studies
  2. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
    • aims to
      • understand how and why sexual abuse occurred within Australian institutions
      • provide guidance as to how future abuse might be prevented
  3. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
    • The societal norm that 'children should be seen but not heard', which prevailed for unknown decades, provided the opportunity for some adults to abuse the power which their relationship with the child gave them. When the required silence of the child was accompanied by an unquestioning belief by adults in the integrity of the carer for the child, be they youth worker, teacher, residential supervisor or cleric, the power imbalance was entrenched to the inevitable detriment of many children.
    • We must ensure that in the future the institution does not silence the child. The institution must work to ensure that the child can be heard. (Hon Justice McClennan AM, 2015)
  4. How do children perceive & experience safety in institutions and how do institutions respond?
    • Children's Safety Study (ACU, QUT & Griffith University)
      • Taking Us Seriously - Childhood studies
      • Our Safety Counts - Children's rights
    • Safety of Children & Young People with Disability (Southern Cross University)
      • Feeling Safe: Being Safe - Children's participation, Standpoint theory
    • Safety of Children & Young People in Residential Care (ACU, QUT & Griffith University)
    • Safe & Sound - Child informed policy & practice
  5. The studies
    • ASK-YP Survey: 1440 children and young people
    • Focus Groups with Children & Young People: 121 children and young people
    • Children & Young People's Reference Groups
      • FOCUS GROUPS: Inform > Trial > Feedback > Analyse > Prioritise
      • ASK-YP SURVEY: Inform > Trial > Feedback > Champion > Analyse > Prioritise > Disseminate
    • What does safety mean > What safety concerns do you have > What do you need to be safe and feel safe > How well do institutions do in keeping you safe > What needs to be done to improve your safety
  6. Why do children value participation?
    • Participation demonstrates respect for children and young people
      • 'Lots of adults don't care enough about kids and this stuff is going to keep happening. Until they see us as having good ideas and believe us [when things go wrong] nothing will change.' (MX-2)
  7. Being heard is important
    • "Cos just talking to people takes a big load off your chest, like a huge weight is lifted off you. So there does need to be more people. Because its hard to talk to people, you've got to trust them a lot … there are not many people that I can trust, that I can tell." (16 year old male, Who Cares?)
  8. Participation helps adults understand what children and young people need to be safe and feel safe
    • 'You think that adults must surely have heard something if you have and that they're dealing with it.' 'You know we're used to not being told about things so you just assume that they're dealing with it but haven't told us … [but] it turns out that sometimes they have no idea … They're clueless', 'so maybe we need to tell them more and not assume so much and they have to ask more, even when they think things are going OK.' (YP-1)
  9. Cartoon image of father talking to son
    • "Your mother and I found out you've been blogging. We don't know what that means, but we'd like you to stop."
  10. Understanding what safety means to children and young people
    • Two Images of mind maps made by child: one has the word SAFE and one has UNSAFE
  11. Images of main themes: Feelings, people, places, activities, things, times
  12. What does it mean to be safe?
    • Being safe and feeling safe are two different things
      • Kids are more concerned about FEELING SAFE and adults are more concerned about kids BEING SAFE and often forget that to BE SAFE they need both
    • Children tell whether they're safe or not based:
      • On their bodies
      • On their behaviours
      • On other's behaviours
      • On what they've seen or heard
      • On what they've experienced
    • To be safe, kids need:
      • Familiarity, predictability and some sense of control
      • To be with those they trust
      • For adults to be adult-like, to demonstrate their respect for kids, to use their power FOR children, to take control, to do what they say they are going to do
  13. Kids R central
    • Friendly Maps is available on the ICPS website
    • "Things that make me feel safe" is available on the ICPS website
  14. Participation affords children and young people opportunities to help adults understand and respond to their needs
    • Adults think they know what kids need to be safe, but I don't think that they do. They base it on what they remember from when they were kids and the world is different now. So they need to talk to kids and find out what it means to them.
  15. Recognise that things are different now …
    • "I don't feel safe at SeaWorld: I don't like people, I don't like bears, I don't like animals, I don't like SeaWorld or zoos … I hate the zoo and I'm worried the tiger will get out of it's cage and it will attack me and I will die and someone will film it and it will be on youtube"
  16. Image of tiger
  17. Participation helps children and young people inform how to protect them
    • 'Every school should do what we just did [in the focus group]. Talk about what risks there are and if it's a big risk and what's been done and what we think should be done. How else can they find out what young adults think and how can we hear what's been done?' (YP-3)
  18. Diagram with sticky notes
    Impact (lowest to highest)
    Likelihood (highest to lowest) Bad grades   Terrorist attack Parent dying
      Losing friends    
        Snake bites Car accident
  19. Image of child covered in sticky notes
  20. Worryometer available on
  21. Diagram with sticky notes
    Impact (lowest to highest)
    Likelihood (highest to lowest)   Adult bullies Bullying Creepy adults
      Favoritism Peer Pressure Adults doing bad stuff
        Snake bites Kidnap
  22. What kids need What adults do (helpful) Jellyfish (what keeps adults from doing) What adults do (unhelpful) Advice for adults
    Support Help make school safe Don't want to be bullied by the adult Say "Just grow up", "walk away", "violence never helps"  
    Advice Pay attention Don't think it's a big deal Step in and try to fix; but make things worse  
    Understanding Understand the problem Don't know how to fix    
    Someone to protect them Hear kids feelings Want to fix rather than listen    
      Talk to bully (with agreement from victim) No time    
        Other things they need to get done that they think are more important    
        No skills    
  23. Activity: Here and there.
    • How is life right now?
      • school, feelings, friends, family, home?
    • How would you like it to be?
      • school, feelings, friends, family, home?
  24. You told us that adults can keep children and young people safe by:
    • Respecting children and young people: their abilities, observations, needs and wishes
    • Asking children and young people what they're thinking, feeling and seeing and what they need
    • Watching what other adults are doing and how children are behaving
    • Listening to what children and young people are really saying
    • Standing up and speaking out when children and young people are being hurt, bullied or treated badly
    • Doing what they're supposed to do, what they say they'll do and what children and young people need them to do
    • Informing children and young people about the dangers, what's being done and how they'll do what kids have asked them to do
  25. Participation helps children and young people inform and understand what is being done to protect them
    • Knowledge – knowing what is being done if something dangerous has happened. Like if there are strangers in the area knowing what your teachers and adults are doing makes you feel more safe rather than just knowing something bad is happening and worrying that you're in danger.' 'But adults don't always understand this.' 'They think they should hide that stuff from kids to keep them safe but you feel more scared if you don't know what's happening.' (YP-2)
  26. Participation recognises the barriers
    • I would deal with this type of thing myself
      • Females (agree) 19.3%
      • Males (agree) 27.4%
    • Adults at my school wouldn't know what to do in situations …
      • Females (agree) 11.8%
      • Males (agree) 14.8%
    • I would be worried that things would get worse if I told an…
      • Females (agree) 30.9%
      • Males (agree) 21.4%
    • Adults at my school are too busy to deal with things like …
      • Females (agree) 10.1%
      • Males (agree) 14.8%
    • Adults at my school don't really care about young people in …
      • Females (agree) 7.7%
      • Males (agree) 14.8%
    • I would feel uncomfortable talking to an adult at school …
      • Females (agree) 46.5%
      • Males (agree) 45.4%
  27. Protective Participation
    • Is embedded in organisational practice
  28. Pathways to Participation Diagram source: Harry Shier 2001
      Openings Opportunities Obligations

    Children share power and responsibility for decision-making

    Are you ready to share some of your adult power with children? Is there a procedure that enables children and adults to share power and responsibility for decisions? Is it a policy requirement that children and adults share power and responsibility for decisions?

    Children are involved in decision-making processes

    Are you ready to let children join in your decision-making processes? Is there a procedure that enables children to join in decision-making processes? Is it a policy requirement that children must be involved in decision-making processes?

    Children's views are taken into account

    Are you ready to take children's views into account? Does your decision-making enable you to take children's views into account?

    Is it a policy requirement that children's views must be given due weight in decision-making?

    *This point is the minimum you must achieve if you endorse the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

    Children are supported in expressing their views

    Are you ready to support children in expressing their views? Do you have a range of ideas and activities to help children express their views? Is it a policy requirement that children must be supported in expressing their views?

    Children are listened to

    Are you ready to listen to children? Do you work in a way that enables you to listen to children? Is it a policy requirement that children must be listened to?
  29. Protective participation is child-friendly and approaches are shaped by children and young people
    • Children and young people want to have their say and appreciate the opportunities to do so
    • Talking about safety can be difficult or uncomfortable but this doesn't warrant not being asked
    • Children and young people think about safety differently to adults (and differently to how adults think kids think) It takes a while to get used to talking about these issues
    • It's important to start by 'sussing out' what children and young people already know
    • It is important to be guided by children and young people about what and how things are discussed
    • Choice and control are paramount
    • Children feel more empowered when they have opportunities to talk
  30. Protective participation is preventative
    • 'Adults and youth think about different things when they're trying to work out what's going on. I think adults make a quick judgment while we watch, look out for things more. Adults probably have more experience so they can decide quicker but that doesn't mean they don't make mistakes. Maybe because we're watching we see things they don't see.' (YP-4)
  31. Protective participation does not require adults to initiate, but may benefit when they do
    • Adults at my school would know what to say to me …
      • Females (disagree) 6.1%
      • Males (disagree) 6.7%
    • Adults at my school would see it as their job to …
      • Females (disagree) 11.8%
      • Males (disagree) 14.8%
    • Adults at my school would probably not believe me …
      • Females (disagree) 57.2%
      • Males (disagree) 48.8%
    • I have an adult at my school I trust that I …
      • Females (disagree) 15.0%
      • Males (disagree) 17.1%
    • Adults at my school would only know if a child or …
      • Females (disagree) 14.1%
      • Males (disagree) 16.2%
    • Adults at my school would notice if another adult …
      • Females (disagree) 17.7%
      • Males (disagree) 16.2%
    • I would know what to do because we've talked about …
      • Females (disagree) 36.9%
      • Males (disagree) 19.7%
  32. Protective participation understands, responds to and redresses power imbalances
    • Relational and intergenerational vulnerability
      • Because they're adults and we're kids we're always going to be in a worse off position. Everyone thinks that adults can treat kids how they want, that kids should be respectful of adults no matter what and that children should just do what adults say because their kids and adults are adults (YP-3)
      • They stand over you and make you feel really small. They want to remind you that you are weak and you have to do exactly what they say. There's nothing you can do because you're just a kid and you can't fight back…. That's why kids are unsafe because they can't stand up and protect themselves. If no one is around anything could happen.
  33. Safety & Power
    • Organisational powerlessness
      • Adults protect each other and the institution
      • 'Adults won't usually stand up against an adult bully. Maybe it's because they don't see it as a problem or maybe because they don't want to get caught in the middle of it. I think people think it's OK to intimidate a kid, particularly if it's so they do something that people think is good for the kid. But that doesn't mean that it's OK.' (MX-1)
  34. Protective participation is skill-building
  35. Protective participation leads to change
    • The world is unsafe for most kids, well that's how they feel anyway. So if you're going to make it safe you've got to make them feel OK … You have to ask them what worries them and fix that.
  36. Protective participation fosters evaluation and complaints handling
    • The WA Commissioner for Children and Young People recommends that complaints systems:
      • Focus on children and young people as service users
      • Are highly visible and children and young people are informed about how to use them
      • Are accessible to children and young people and respond to their specific needs
      • Are responsive and timely: concerns are acted on quickly
      • Foster confidentiality
      • Are driven by accountability and continuous improvement It can be accessed here
    • Source: Are you listening? Commissioner for Children and Young People, Western Australia
  37. Protective participation focuses on children's needs and wishes as well as organisational responsibilities
  38. The lesson to be learned is that effective protection of children can only be achieved by listening to and taking them seriously.
    • The conventional view of protection has been a one-way process, with adults as agents and children as recipients.
    • What is now needed is a more sophisticated approach, in which it is understood as a dynamic process in which adults take responsibility for keeping children safe by listening to and respecting their perspectives, while empowering them to contribute to their own protection (Tisdall, p149)
  39. Implications for child-safe organisations
    • Child safe strategies are great but many do not appear to have afforded children and young people to shape or critique their design or implementation
    • Participation should be preventative
    • Child safe strategies should keep kids safe and help them feel safe
    • Participation can help inform strategies related to "child voice" but others too!
  40. Resources
    • The Children's Safety Study Reports are available on the Royal Commission website
      • Moore, T., M. McArthur, J. Heerde, S. Roche and P. O'Leary (2016). Our safety counts: Children and young people's perceptions of safety and institutional responses to their safety concerns. Melbourne, Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University.
      • Moore, T., M. McArthur, D. Noble-Carr and D. Harcourt (2015). Taking us seriously: children and young people talk about safety and institutional responses to their safety concerns. Melbourne, Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University.
    • A YouTube clip for children and young people can be accessed at:,_institutes_and_centres/centres/institute_of_child_protection_studies/our_work/current_previous_work/completed_in_2016/safety_of_children_in_institutions
    • The Kids Central Toolkit is available online at,_institutes_and_centres/centres/institute_of_child_protection_studies/kids_central_toolkit/kids_central_tools
    • Other references:
      • Bessell, S. (2015). Inclusive and Respectful Relationships as the Basis for Child Inclusive Policies and Practice. International Perspectives and Empirical Findings on Child Participation: From Social Exclusion to Child-Inclusive Policies.
      • Bijleveld, G. G., C. W. Dedding and J. F. Bunders-Aelen (2015). "Children's and young people's participation within child welfare and child protection services: a state-of-the-art review." Child & Family Social Work 20(2): 129-138.
      • Fern, E. (2014). "Child-directed social work practice: Findings from an action research study conducted in Iceland." British Journal of Social Work 44(5): 1110-1128.
      • Gal, T. and B. Duramy (2015). International Perspectives and Empirical Findings on Child Participation: From Social Exclusion to Child-inclusive Policies, Oxford University Press.
      • Lansdown, G. (2001). Promoting children's participation in democratic decision-making.
      • Lundy, L. (2007). "'Voice'is not enough: conceptualising Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child." British Educational Research Journal 33(6): 927-942.
      • McClellan, P. (2015). "Safe as Churches?" Retrieved 06/12/2016, from
      • Tisdall, E. K. M. (2006). Children, young people and social inclusion: participation for what?, Policy Press.
  41. Questions?
    • Join the conversation & access key resources
    • Continue the conversation started here today and access related resources on the CFCA website:

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