Child protection policies in sports seldom receive adequate attention in programme planning. It is important to ensure children are engaged in safe sports which prioritizes physical activity as well as safeguarding against physical, social, mental, and environmental harm.
Stanford Children?s Health reports over 3.5 million children sustain a form of injury whilst involved in sports and other recreational activities per year. Child protection policies serve the purpose of preventing harm and highlighting guidelines and steps to follow when injury occurs. These guidelines and procedures ensure there are clear instructions for incident reports and investigative measures. It also serves to protect sport organizations from liabilities.
Most importantly, parents and guardians are more inclined to send their kids to facilities that are encouraging, supportive and safe. To create a well-balanced sports programme for children, sport facilities should create, implement, and enforce child protection policies.
Who needs to be safeguarded and protected under child protection policies?
A child is defined as anyone under the age of 18 by The Convention on the Rights of the Child.
What are the steps to implement child protection policies?
There are eight safeguards backed internationally by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and several laws which was informed by a research study conducted by Brunel University.
Best Practices for a Child Protection Policy
The 8 Safeguards to develop and implement child protection policies are:
- Develop Your Policy: Have a statement of intent that clearly states the establishment?s commitment to safeguard anyone under 18 in sports.
- Procedures for Responding to Safeguarding Concerns: Describe step by step guidelines for actions, roles, responsibilities, and reporting in different scenarios. Plus, stating the centre?s role regarding relevant laws and legal institutions.
- Advice and Support: Plan for effective communication, information dissemination, and support for the children as well as those responsible for safeguarding them.
- Minimise Risks to Children: Provide measures to assess and minimise the risks to children.
- Guidelines for Behaviour: Establish appropriate codes of conduct to describe what an acceptable standard of behaviour is.
- Recruiting and Training: Recruit proper staff that are well vetted and create opportunities for them to develop and maintain necessary skills for safeguarding.
- Work with Partners: All partners must be adequately briefed and adopt all safeguard measures.
- Monitor and Evaluate: Ongoing evaluation and monitoring of policies to see what works or need reviewing, and to ensure compliance.
Forms of Child Protection and Safeguard Policies
There are several forms of child protection policies that sport centres are implementing to keep the children safe. An example of a general child protection policy is to ?Always have a qualified coach, instructor or mentor present at all times in all activities?.
However, some organizations take a more involved approach to safeguard the kids especially girls in sports. For example, Naz Foundation’s Young People?s Initiative in India that utilizes netball along with life skills to empower young girls, achieve gender equality, and build female leadership, also has a child protection and safeguarding programme called ?Abhayam?. The programme works towards creating safe spaces for children, strengthening Naz?s child protection policy, and training Naz?s partner organizations in child protection and safeguarding.
So, what policies have you implemented or thinking of implementing in your sports programme to safeguard the children against all forms of injury?
If you?re still wondering how to build in a child protection module or to strengthen your organization?s leadership check out our Module on organizational governance here.
By: Apata Oluwabukola, GIL Team Member