Shelter Them is committed to being fully accountable and transparent to the children and the communities we work with, as well as to our supporters, partners and employees. Our activities are conducted legally, ethically and in accordance with the highest standards of integrity. Please read our Child Protection Policy and Code of Conduct below.
Child Protection Policy
At Shelter Them we believe that all children have a right to protection from violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect. This means that anyone working for Shelter Them must always respect children, listen to them and protect them from harm. This includes staff, volunteers, Board members, and any others who work with children on Shelter Them’s behalf.
Everyone working in our name must read and sign a commitment to uphold this policy, including the parents of the children we support. We include a review of this policy in the orientation of new staff and employees in the first week of working with us and also provide a child protection training within the first month of employment. All partners who we work with Shelter Them must also read and sign our Child Protection Policy and Code of Conduct.
We also make sure that the children, families and communities that we work with will learn about our commitment to child protection. This includes our policy, the behaviour they can expect from our staff and representatives, and how to contact us if they have any concerns.
We have zero-tolerance of any form of harm to children. Child abuse is when anyone under 18 years of age is being harmed. The abuse can be physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect. The abuse and exploitation of children happens in all countries and societies around the world. Shelter Them believes that child abuse is never acceptable.
Shelter Them is committed to safeguard children through the following means:
Awareness: Ensuring that all staff, parents and children and those who work with Shelter Them are aware of what abuse is and the risks to children.
Prevention: Ensuring, through awareness and good practice, that staff and those who work with Shelter Them will minimize all risks to children.
Reporting: Ensuring that all staff members, volunteers, board members, parents and children are clear on what steps to take where concerns arise regarding the safety of children.
Responding: Ensuring that action is taken to support and protect children where concerns arise regarding possible abuse.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child says that all children have the right to be protected. We require our staff to uphold the highest standards, and always act in the best interest of children. If they don’t, they cannot work for Shelter Them.
Awareness – What Is Abuse?
Child abuse includes physical, emotional and sexual abuse and/or neglect. It also refers to a pattern of abuse and risks of harm.
Physical abuse is any deliberate physical force or action which results, or could result, in injury to a child. It can include bruising, cuts, punching, slapping, beating, shaking, burning, biting or throwing a child. Using belts, sticks or other objects to punish a child can cause serious harm and is also considered abuse.
Emotional abuse is a pattern of behaviour that attacks a child’s emotional development and sense of self-worth. It includes excessive, aggressive or unreasonable demands that place expectations on a child beyond his or her capacity. Emotional abuse includes constantly criticizing, teasing, belittling, insulting, rejecting, ignoring or isolating the child. It may also include exposure to domestic violence, whether physical or emotional.
Sexual abuse occurs when a child is used for the sexual gratification of an adult or an older child. The child may co-operate because he or she wants to please the adult or out of fear. Abuse includes sexual intercourse, exposing a child’s private areas, fondling for sexual purposes, watching a child undress for sexual pleasure, and allowing or forcing a child to look at or perform in pornographic pictures or images, or engage in prostitution.
Neglect occurs when a parent or caregiver fails to provide basic needs such as adequate food, sleep, safety, education, clothing or medical treatment. It also includes leaving a child alone or failing to provide adequate supervision. If the parent or caregiver is unable to provide the child with basic needs due to financial inability, it is not considered neglect, unless relief has been offered and refused.
Education is the surest way to avoid instances of abuse. All new employees of Shelter Them must read and sign that they understand and will abide by our Child Protection Policy. The staff of Shelter Them will discuss this policy at a staff meeting at least once per year. In addition, whenever an alleged case of abuse occurs, all staff members will review the case together, to ensure a common approach to the policy.
Parents and children must also be made aware of this policy. Shelter Them staff will inform them of the policy and parents will be given awareness training in abuse and its prevention. Parents must understand and agree to the commitment of Shelter Them to protect all our children from violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect.
Reporting – “Reasonable Grounds”
Keeping the most vulnerable members of our Shelter Them community safe is the responsibility of everyone. If anyone working on behalf of Shelter Them has any reason to believe that a child is in need of protection or is at risk of harm, that person has a duty to report the situation as soon as possible, and at least within 24 hours.
If anyone has reasonable grounds to suspect a child is in need of help, then that person must report the incident. It is not up to individuals to prove or investigate the abuse, but it is up to everyone to take immediate steps to protect the child by reporting the incident. Employees who do not report potential abuse or neglect can face consequences up to and including termination of employment.
It is not necessary to be certain that a child is or may be in need of protection to make a report of abuse. “Reasonable grounds” refers to the information that an average person, using normal and honest judgment, would need in order to decide to report. The person who has concerns should bring forward their concerns as soon as possible, and the appropriate authorities will determine if there is a sufficient basis to warrant further assessment of the concerns about the child’s safety.
The first step must be to report concern. In cases of emotional or physical abuse or neglect, employees must report their concern to the Country Manager, who will then decide how to proceed with the report, taking into account the best interests of the child as well as the laws and customs of Rwanda. He will decide on appropriate actions in consultation with the Community Support Manager, local social services authorities and/or the police.
Regarding sexual abuse, the employee must first report the concern to the police, and then to the Country Manager.
In the event of any allegation of abuse, all staff members have a duty to respond, including reporting that allegation to the Country Manager. The Country Manager has a number of duties in the case of any allegation.
· In the case of an allegation of sexual abuse, the Country Manager’s first response must be to inform the police of the allegation. (Police should already have been informed of alleged sexual abuse, but the Country Manager must report as well to confirm it has been done.)
· In the case of any allegation of any kind of abuse, the investigation must begin with the assumption that the child is telling the truth.
· The Country Manager must create, within 24 hours of receiving the allegation, an Incident Report for any allegation of abuse of a child. That report should include details of the allegation, steps taken to investigate the allegation and the actions taken to resolve the allegation. Also included should be any recommendations to prevent repetition of the abuse, if that abuse is substantiated.
· The Country Manager must report any allegation of abuse at the next meeting of the Board of Shelter Them Rwanda, or sooner if the allegation is deemed by the Country Manager to require a more immediate response.
· The Country Manager must retain the Incident Report for at least two years in order to identify any pattern of abuse. The Manager can at that time decide to remove or retain the Incident Report, depending on the likelihood of any repetition of abuse.
· At the next staff meeting, the Country Manager must discuss the case with staff, (taking into account any privacy requirements) explaining the decisions that were made, so that all staff can take a common approach to implementation of this policy.
· In every instance of abuse against children under the protection of Shelter Them, all staff members must act in cooperation with local authorities. Shelter Them must never be seen to be acting on its own to address accusations or suspicions of abuse.
Shelter Them Code of Conduct
The purpose of this Code of Conduct is to assure the children and families we serve, the sponsors and supporters of Shelter Them, as well as the Rwandan government, that Shelter Them is taking every step we can to ensure the safety and well-being of the children and families we serve, as well as the staff who provide their valuable service. The policy is intended to ensure the highest standard of ethical, legal and safeguarding behaviour. Everyone covered by this policy must strive to act in a way that treats each other and the children and communities we serve with dignity and respect, and that we act in a way that provides a safe and inclusive workplace. All violations of this policy will be addressed in an appropriate and timely manner.
This policy applies to all staff members, volunteers, parents or caregivers, and any group or individual who is conducting work on behalf of Shelter Them. It also applies to the Board members of Shelter Them Rwanda and Shelter Them Poverty Relief. Every individual who provides paid or volunteer service to Shelter Them, as well as parents, has a responsibility to read, understand, and comply with this Code of Conduct.
Roles and Responsibilities
In order to ensure the health, safety and well-being of the children in our care, everyone associated with Shelter Them has a role to play. Below is a list of responsibilities that all employees, managers, board members, volunteers and contractors must read and understand.
Employees and managers, volunteers and contractors will…
· Put the welfare of our children uppermost in any actions or decisions taken on behalf of Shelter Them;
· Not perform or allow to be performed any action that is illegal, unethical or liable to cause harm to any of our children;
· Treat each other and the children and families we serve with professionalism and respect;
· Not behave, at work or away from work, in a way which will reflect negatively on Shelter Them;
· Comply with all local and national laws and regulations;
· Adhere to all health and safety standards, policies and procedures;
· Act in a way that is consistent with Shelter Them’s Child Protection Policy and which creates an environment which is safe from physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect;
· Not engage in sexual relations with anyone under the age of 18, whether or not that person is served by Shelter Them;
· Not have a personal relationship of any kind with any of our beneficiaries beyond the scope of their duties at Shelter Them. There should be no potential for anyone to infer any conflict of interest or favoritism;
· Not disclose any personal or confidential Shelter Them information unless legally obliged to do so;
· Not use time at work to conduct personal business.
Any employee or manager who does not abide by this Code of Conflict will face consequences to be determined by the Board of Shelter Them Rwanda. Those consequences could range from censure or training to termination.
Any volunteer or contractor who does not abide by this Code will be required by the County Manager to immediately terminate the relationship with Shelter Them.
Below is a list of responsibilities that all board members of Shelter Them Rwanda and Shelter Them Poverty Relief must read and understand.
Board Members will…
· Put the welfare of our children uppermost in any actions or decisions taken on behalf of Shelter Them;
· Read and understand all Shelter Them policies, and act at all times in accordance with those policies;
· Hold themselves accountable to the highest level of professional behaviour and communication with each other and with the staff of Shelter Them;
· Safeguard confidential information on sensitive issues, especially regarding personnel matters;
· Not disclose or discuss differences of opinion within the Board with anyone not on the Board. The Board should speak externally with one voice;
· Avoid any real or perceived conflict of interest and disclose to the Board any involvement with other organizations or individuals that might be perceived as a conflict of interest;
· On controversial issues, make every effort to understand other board members and to make oneself understood;
· Refrain from trying to influence board decisions outside of board meetings that might have the effect of creating divisions in the board or of preventing free and open discussion at meetings;
· Be willing to offer alternative points of view on issues and to encourage others to do the same;
· Support board decisions, even if one’s own position is a minority one, once a decision has been made;
· Advocate for Shelter Them and its mission whenever the opportunity arises in personal and professional situations.
Any board member of either Shelter Them Rwanda or Shelter Them who does not abide by this Code will face consequences to be determined by The Board of Shelter Them Rwanda, up to and including termination of the relationship with Shelter Them.
Below is a list of responsibilities that all adult beneficiaries of Shelter Them, including parents and caregivers, must read and understand.
Adult beneficiaries of Shelter Them will…
· Put the welfare of their children uppermost in their actions and decisions;
· Not perform or allow to be performed any action that is illegal, unethical or liable to cause harm to any of their children;
· Learn and understand their responsibilities towards children as beneficiaries of Shelter Them, as outlined in this Code of Conduct and the Child Protection Policy;
· Take part in all activities provided by Shelter Them staff that offer insight into such issues as effective parenting, proper nutrition, and disciplining children.
Any adult beneficiaries whose repeated behaviour puts children at risk must be reported to local social services authorities. Shelter Them staff will work with those local authorities to ensure children’s right to protection from violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect.