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Staff and volunteers working with children and their families are in the thick of it, busy hands-on with those who need your focus, your attention, your expertise.

We understand it feels like there’s limited time for more learning and more tasks. The systems described in this page are designed to share responsibility across those in an organisation and make it easier for those on the front line to do what they need to do without undue stress and additional workload. Protecting children should not burn out staff and volunteers, they should be supported to do what is necessary without that impact. No-one is solely responsible for keeping children safe, those working with children and their families are one important piece in the wider jigsaw of child safety, they don’t have to bear the weight of the whole picture. Read on to skill up and see what staff, volunteers and the organisations they work for can do better for children and young people.

Three areas of risk an organisation needs to consider

In relation to the sexual abuse of children, there are three distinct areas of risk that organisations are responsible for having a strategy to prevent, recognise and respond to. They are sexual abuse and/or grooming for sexual abuse perpetrated:

  1. By employees or volunteers.
  2. By a participant or other child during activities or within a programme the organisation is responsible for.
  3. By a person not connected to the organisation (that is, family member of child) however employees/volunteers or members of the organisation notice signs in either the child or an adult that sexual abuse may be happening.

What can an organisation do to ensure they are preventing child sexual abuse and respond when it may be occurring?

Based on the model below, there are 10 steps an organisation needs to take to meet their responsibilities.

Screening and selection processes should be explained in an organisations child protection policies and procedures. Organisations should have rigorous screening processes in place when recruiting staff and volunteers who will work directly with children. Police vetting, background and reference checks, and interviews should be conducted to ensure the suitability of individuals and minimise the risk of potential abusers gaining access to children. We must move beyond a compliance mentality of police vetting being enough, a reference check may give you more information on the persons suitability. Check out our resource for helpful hints on what questions to ask a referee and at an interview.
Organisations should develop and implement comprehensive child protection policies and procedures that explicitly address child sexual abuse prevention. These policies should outline guidelines for staff and volunteers regarding appropriate behaviour, reporting mechanisms, and steps to be taken in cases of suspected or disclosures of abuse. Organisations must establish clear reporting mechanisms that encourage staff, volunteers and even children to report any suspected instances of child sexual abuse. These mechanisms should ensure information sharing occurs and appropriate documentation is held, ensure confidentiality, protect whistle-blowers from retaliation and enable Reports of Concern to Oranga Tamariki or calls to Police happen as necessary. Take a look at our resource and training on auditing existing policies and writing new policies.
People may pass a police vet yet be totally inappropriate to work with children because of their behaviour and attitudes towards children or cases where they have abused children that are unknown to Police. A Code of Conduct is vital as it provides guidance on appropriate and expected standards of behaviour of those working or volunteering in an organisation towards children and young people. The Code of Conduct can support quickly identifying inappropriate or unsafe behaviour so that it maybe addressed swiftly to minimise harm.
Organisations should provide regular training and education to all staff and volunteers, equipping them with knowledge about child sexual abuse prevention, recognising signs of abuse and reporting procedures. Training should include information about which children are more vulnerable to experiencing sexual abuse, why this is the case and how to support them, responding to their needs. This training should emphasise the importance of maintaining appropriate boundaries with children and young people and promoting a safe and supportive environment.
We know that one of the crucial elements of a child safe organisation is listening to and valuing the opinions of children and young people. If we ask children and young people what they think about the places they spend time in and consider their views when planning, it helps create safe environments where they feel safe and thrive and it sends a message to them that we care about what they have to say. It creates opportunities for them to share their concerns, complaints or make disclosures of abuse and neglect. We must believe children when they disclose concerning or abusive behaviour. Often staff or volunteers do not know what to do in this scenario, consider our disclosures training for those in your organisation who may receive disclosures. Children will not tell us they are experiencing abuse if they do not know what abuse is or looks like. We need to educate and thus empower children and young people to know what healthy and unhealthy conduct is.
Regular supervision and monitoring of staff and volunteers who work with children are essential to ensure professional and appropriate boundaries, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours. This includes ongoing evaluation of their performance, observation of their interactions with children and young people and maintaining an open line of communication to address any concerns or potential issues promptly.
As well as ensuring children’s emotional and spiritual wellbeing, organisations should create and maintain a safe physical environment for children and young people, implementing measures like secure access controls, surveillance systems, and appropriate use of spaces to minimise the risk of abuse. Additionally, they should establish guidelines for online safety and digital communication to protect children from online exploitation.
Organisations should collaborate with relevant stakeholders, such as families, whānau, iwi, hapū, community organisations and agencies, Oranga Tamariki and Police to share information, resources, and wise practices in preventing child sexual abuse. Building strong partnerships can enhance prevention efforts and improve the overall safety of children.
Organisations should regularly review and update their child protection policies and practices based on emerging research, changing legal requirements, and feedback from staff, volunteers, and families. Continuous improvement ensures that prevention strategies remain effective and responsive to evolving challenges.
Finally and most importantly, organisations must promote a culture where the safeguarding and protection of children is paramount, that practice is with the child in the centre surrounded by their family or whānau and where there is a mentality that ‘Sexual Abuse can happen here’ to ensure those responsible for acting…do!

All organisations have a duty of care and responsibility to safeguard children. Even more so when they provide services to children and young people. Staff or volunteers who are responsible for children without parents/carers present are in a position of trust, a privileged position which can be abused. The news, reports and the Royal Commission of Inquiry into State and Faith-Based care highlight that many organisations are failing to meet this duty of care and in some cases this has resulted in children being abused. Don’t let that be your organisation. Assess how well your organisation meets these standards as laid out above and suggest to senior leadership what needs to be improved so you know you have done all you can to Stop Child Sexual Abuse.

It’s not your burden as a staff member or volunteer with children to bear alone. You are part of a supportive web around a child. Understand your role and share the responsibility. That is what the above model does, ensures people know their roles and accountability is shared. Encourage your leadership team to ensure they have reviewed and updated their child safe systems and processes so that it is easier for you to navigate the challenges of recognising and responding to child sexual abuse. You have the power to request more support and initiate change in your workplace. You are not alone in this, and together we can make a difference.

Examples of different organisations who have ended up failing to protect the children they were responsible for:

Example 1

Second Oranga Tamariki sexual misconduct allegation discovered during surprise visit.

Example 2

Music teacher has convictions quashed – pleads guilty after new victim comes forward.

Example 3

Former student wants compensation after sexual abuse at prestigious Christchurch school.

Example 4

Former teacher sexually abused multiple boys at a rural North Island campground.


Organisations should be alert to grooming behaviours particularly of staff or volunteers of the organisation but also any person they observe engaging in these behaviours towards a child or young person. Often these behaviours are not criminal and could be overlooked as someone going over and above for a vulnerable child. They are also some of the first warning signs that people may see of an adult preparing a child for sexual abuse and are an organisation’s chance to step in and interrupt these behaviours before abuse takes place. Staff and volunteers should be guided by the organisation’s child protection policy and procedures as well as referring to the organisation’s code of conduct for guidance on how to respond to such indicators and concerns. The link below provides a really useful graphic to assist in deciding how concerning behaviours are.

Red Flag Child Sexual Grooming Behaviours

Resources for those working with children and young people

Here are some resources to assist you with your work in meeting the requirements of being a child-safe organisation that prevents, recognises and responds to child sexual abuse.

Healthy relationship and unhealthy behaviours education sessions for youth

It is crucial that children and young people know what abuse is and what healthy and unhealthy conduct within a relationship is. These organisations provide workshops and sessions to assist teaching these skills, in the community and in schools.

This is a report on ensuring that all children receive such education and that no groups are excluded from the content.

Online content education

It is also important that children and young people are empowered to protect themselves from harmful online content, the following are excellent resources for educators and others working with children and youth to meet this need.

Join the movement to STOP child sexual abuse.

Abuse is PREVENTABLE not inevitable!

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