- September 27, 2017
Child protection week provides an opportunity for everyone in the community to think about how we can keep our children safe.
At The Infants’ Home, our mission is to provide each child with every opportunity. At the heart of this lies a belief in children’s rights. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was ratified by Australia in December 1990, and recognises that children have the same human rights as adults, while also needing special protection due to their vulnerability.
The National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN) was founded in 1987, and coordinates National Child Protection Week, now in its 25th year. The aim of National Child Protection Week is to encourage everyone to think about how we can work together to keep all children safe by reminding us that:
This year our social worker, Samantha, coordinated various activities across our Early Childhood Education and Care Centres to focus on Child Protection Week. Around reception, several information stalls were set up, and many little hands could be seen on windows and sticking out of garden beds, each hand representing the idea of a child choosing five safe people, or heroes.
Samantha explains “Statistically speaking, child abuse is more likely to be perpetrated by someone known to the child, therefore children should always have more than one or two people to go to if they have big or uncomfortable feelings. These people should be reviewed every 3 – 6 months, as teachers can change and relatives move away.”
Many posters were on display around the five early childhood education and care centres, encouraging discussions among children and their educators as well as their parents and carers. The concept of ‘stranger danger’ was a familiar subject for many – but one that Samantha feels is becoming outdated in the light of research showing the higher probability of perpetrators of abuse being known to the child.
“I feel that the most helpful things to teach young children, are the concepts of ‘safe touching’, body awareness, and consent. We want to teach children that it’s okay to say no to an adult or a friend, it’s okay to express their feelings and feel empowered to not be involved in things that they don’t like.” – Samantha, Social Worker at The Infants’ Home
One of the main tools used by our centres to teach personal safety, is a series of books produced by The Office of the Children’s Guardian, known as the SAFE book series.
This book series was developed specifically to teach children under six about protective behaviours, i.e. behaviours that will help keep them safe from harm or abuse. There are four books in the series:
(above book descriptions taken from the SAFE series user guide, published by The Office of the Children’s Guardian, August 2016).
During Child Protection Week, these books were read by our community playgroup facilitators and onsite educators across all age groups, initiating discussions with the children who reflected on the characters’ experiences and related them to experiences in their own lives.
While reading the stories, educators paused to help to make sense of the characters’ feelings and experiences, and children reflected upon the people in their life that they trust, shared these thoughts with others, and created dialogue for the characters in the stories based on the events and facial expressions depicted. Understanding of the concept of “my body belongs to me” was reinforced through children engaging in discussions around these stories.
Reading these stories and discussing protective behaviours and safe people, has often led to children thinking about and talking about who their friends are, who they feel comfortable talking about their feelings to, and what to do if a friend is doing something that they don’t feel comfortable with, or makes them upset.
Many groups followed the reading of the stories with art activities based around drawing their five safe people onto paper hands, which children then took home, initiating discussions with parents and carers about child protection.
Parent feedback has been positive, with many children eagerly embracing the concept of their five safe people or heroes, and naming different groups of people every day!
For our younger children, this concept can be a difficult one to understand. Our educators strive to be good role models for the children, displaying kindness and care, supporting their right to be safe and happy, and supporting the children to learn about staying safe. Reading these stories provides an opportunity to engage the children by relating the characters’ experiences to their own, and engaging in conversations about what you can do when you feel sad or scared, or if someone is hurting you.
The children role-played used their hands to say ‘no’ or ‘stop’ when someone was making them feel sad, scared or hurt, and then enjoyed drawing and making hand prints in many different colours.
In talking about how children can stay safe, educators also asked what they could do if they see that their friends are sad or hurt. The children suggested that they could hug their sad friend, give them something to make them feel better, or tell their teacher or mum or dad.
These are all wonderful ideas from our young children who are learning about empathy and how to be a good friend. This lays a good foundation for learning to trust their feelings, and who they can ask for help.
Educators have since observed many children saying ‘stop’ to their peers when they are feeling uncomfortable, and then going to ask their educators for help and support. This growing awareness and understanding of staying safe reinforces the importance of talking about child protection and protective behaviours regularly.
If you think a child or young person is at risk of harm from abuse or neglect, contact Child Protection Helpline on 132 111.
The Child Protection Helpline is a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, statewide call centre staffed by professionally qualified caseworkers to receive and screen all reports.
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