Child Protection Policy
Child Protection and Safeguarding
Child abuse and neglect possesses a peril to the educational as well as physical and emotional well-being of children. Child abuse and Neglect are both a violation of a child’s human rights and a growing concern in schools worldwide. Schools play an instrumental role in society as an institution to protect and care for children by ensuring a safe and secure environment. ARIS is totally dedicated to conserving and safeguarding the welfare of all children in its quarters. We recognize our duty to take all practical steps to support best and safe practices to protect all children from harm, abuse and exploitation.
ARIS acknowledges that the definitions and consequences of child abuse vary drastically on a cultural and individual level. This document attempts to assist our staff and community in acknowledging and accepting the basic universal guidelines and protocols around allegations of child abuse and neglect.
ARIS considers that, all children, innumerable of their gender, ages, culture, nationality and religious background have the right to protection from abuse. Consistent with ARIS’s vision, mission and core values of respect, integrity and accountability, we seek to create and maintain a school environment that is free of harassment and exploitation, and to ensure the same in all of our work with the students and communities with whom we work.
Child Protection Policy Statement
The ARIS child protection policy aims at instituting a well ordered and harmonized system that will protect the children in the school and at home from harm and abuse of any form. This policy is linked to the local, national and international law in relation to child protection namely; the UN Convention on the rights of Children (Article 1, Article 19 and Article 34), the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana (Chapter 28; Article (1d), Article 3 and Article 5) and the Children’s Act.
- Article 19
- Protection from Abuse and Neglect The state shall protect the child from all forms of maltreatment by parents or others responsible for the care of the child and establish appropriate social programs for the prevention of abuse and the treatment of victims.
- Article 34
- Sexual Exploitation, The state shall protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse, including prostitution and involvement in pornography.
Training and Education
All parents, staff and volunteers have to be fully responsive to the policy and its procedures, recognize their responsibilities and be signed up to them. ARIS will ensure that students are getting an age appropriate education that familiarizes them with personal safety, social duties, and identifying potential indicators of abuse and acts intended to cause them harm. ARIS will ensure that students understand their responsibilities to standing up for their own and others rights, and refer any child abuse concern to the Child Protection Officer. ARIS aims to further educate children about online dangers, and strengthen their judgement should they come into contact with sexual content, extremist content, or otherwise unwholesome content online.
The Child protection team would communicate to all staff and members their legal and moral responsibility to protect children from harm and abuse. Our aim is to engage them in the topics of Child’s Rights and Child Protection. Moreover, train them to recognize abuse and neglect by its indicators. ARIS will ensure that all members of staff recognize their duty to report concerns of abuse that arises on a child or staff conduct toward a child. Faculty will also have the duty of teaching and imparting their knowledge of Child Abuse, Neglect and Child Protection to their students as well.
The school will alert parents in recognizing signs and symptoms of abuse. ARIS will facilitate involvement of parents or caretakers in the work and to make the child protection policy available to them. When appropriate, ARIS will educate parents about the ineffectiveness and harm caused by corporal punishment, and encourage age appropriate discipline. Parents must also be educated about potential online dangers, and how to safeguard their children while in the home environment. If an accusation should be made against a parent, they will be notified through a parent meeting to discuss the potential harm being brought onto the child in question.
Child at risk
Difficult temperament, health issues, defiance, social and academic difficulties, and unaware of their rights to protection
ARIS promotes respect and ensures a teaching method that educates children of their rights, their protection, healthy relationships and support system.
Family at risk
Parents under stress, little community or family support, unaware of available resources, high expectations of children, unavailability due to travel
ARIS works with parents to understand discipline to build networks with the school community, and to teach them about child protection practices. ARIS provides support to parents through workshops, trainings, and general availability.
Community at Risk
A country with limited outside resources in regards to child protection availability, and a culture that is generally more tolerant of physical abuse in regards to children
ARIS aims to be strict about the child protection policy implementation. It aims to train teachers, counselors, and parents to support and protect their children. Moreover, build networks with services and external agencies (eg social welfare or DOVVSU).
- A child is a person below the age of eighteen years. (UN Convention on the Rights of Children; Article 1), and the 1992 constitution of Ghana, Chapter 28, Article 5)
- Child Protection
- Any act that seeks to promote the wellbeing of children, prevent abuse and protect them from harm.
- Any damaging or detrimental effects on a child’s physical, socio and emotional wellbeing.
- Child Abuse
- Any physical, sexual and/or emotional acts of others on the child that cause harm on the child.
FORMS OF CHILD ABUSE
Child abuse can take many forms including physical, emotional, sexual and neglect.
Abusive behaviour can emerge in many different relationships, including but not limited to: parental or caregiver against student, teacher or staff member against student, community member against student, online entity against student, or student against student.
Physical abuse occurs when a person purposefully injures or threatens to injure a child or young person. This may take the form of, but not limited to, slapping, pinching, punching, shaking, kicking, burning, shoving or grabbing. The injury may take the form of bruises, cuts, burns or fractures.
- Child’s inability to explain the causes of bruises , burns on the body or explanations that are vague and inconsistent
- An injury reflecting the shape of the article used (e.g. belt, buckle, electric cord)
- Rope marks on arms, legs, neck or torso
- Unexplained lacerations or abrasions or fractures
- A marked delay of injury and seeking medical attention
- Increased fear , guilt and self-shame
- Parents or caregivers showing little or no interest in the wellbeing of their child
- Parents or caregivers showing little concern about the treatment and care of injury to the child.
Emotional abuse is a chronic attack on a child or young person's self-esteem, emotional or social development. It can take the form threatening, hostility, ridiculing, intimidating or isolating the child or young person
- Showing severe or extreme form of anxiety and fear in children
- Children showing signs of depression
- Lack of trust in people
- Feeling of worthlessness about life and themselves
- A parent or caregiver or worker constantly criticizing, threatening or rejecting the child
Sexual abuse is when a child or young person is used by any stronger child, adolescent or adult for his or her own sexual stimulation or gratification, or economic gain. This can take the form of exposing a sexual body part to a child, having a sexual exploitation with the child, fondling the child, rape or incest.
- Displaying greater sexual knowledge than normally expected for the child’s age and development.
- Use of language
- Unusual interpersonal relationship patterns
- Inappropriate sexual play with other children or dolls and toys
- Refusal to change into PE clothes
- Fear of bathrooms
- Torn, stained or bloody clothing, especially underwear
- Bruising, bleeding, swelling tears or cut on genital or anus
- A fear of being alone with particular person
- Extremely protective parenting
Neglect is the failure to provide the child with the basic necessities of life (where such necessities are available) within their own environment. This can be – Physical Neglect – failure to provide necessary food, clothing, shelter and supervision. This is to the extent that a child’s health and development are put at risk e.g. when the child is left unsupervised and shows a lack of adult guardianship for an extended period of time. (ARIS requires one parent or guardian to be a full-time resident of Accra. Should the parents or the legal guardians of the child be leaving Accra for any reason, then it is their responsibility to inform the school via email and provide the details of other appropriate contacts).
Failure to provide necessary treatment or basic medical or mental health treatment.
Failure to provide emotional and psychological care to the child through verbal humiliation, refusing to acknowledge the presence of the child, invasion of privacy, threats, or permitting the child to indulge in age inappropriate activities.
- Poor hygiene , matted hair, dirty skin or body odor
- Unattended physical or medical problems
- Being left unsupervised for long periods
- Malnutrition, begging, stealing or hoarding food.
- Parents uninterested in child’s performance
- Child does not want to go home
- Parents cannot be reached in case of emergency
Bullying and Peer on Peer Abuse
The misuse of power in relationships between two individuals in which one person is repeatedly put down, either verbally, physically, emotionally, sexually or mentally. Acts may be seen by the perpetrator as being funny, but are determined as abusive if they compromise the wellbeing of a student.
In the case of sexual acts between students, ARIS recognizes the sexual age of consent between students as 18 years old, meaning sexual acts between students below this age are explicitly non-consensual. ARIS also recognizes the potential for a power imbalance between students in romantic and sexual relationships, that could lead to the victimization of a student. This includes spreading rumors of a sexual nature, or sharing sexually inappropriate images of peers. This is considered child abuse, and in many instances could fall under a criminal act, and be reported as such.
- Student not wanting to attend school
- Student making excuses to avoid attendance
- Displaying depression, anxiety or fear in and out of school setting
- Strained or isolated interpersonal relationships at school
- Unexplained marks or bruises
Abuses that occur online
In our ever growing advancing world ARIS acknowledges that an increased amount of our time is spent online. Verbal and emotional abuse, sexual advances, and bullying that occur online are equally considered a threat to our students. Allegations of inappropriate online behaviour from any online platform and from any party against our student will be investigated using regular protocol.
Virtual Learning Teacher Expectations
On the occasions that school activities must be conducted online, teachers are obliged to communicate to children professionally. Communication should be done using only school approved platforms, including SeeSaw, Google class, and Zoom. If a teacher has an extenuating circumstance, this should be communicated to the Head of School for approval. Teachers are encouraged to have professional boundaries with students. This includes refraining from sending or receiving personal pictures and messages, communication outside the knowledge of the caregiver about non-educational items, or communicating at inappropriate times outside of school hours. Teachers should refrain from virtual 1:1 meetings with students, unless supported by a third party staff member. Virtual classroom recordings will be kept safe in a designated online folder, and are to be private unless otherwise requested by a senior staff member. Teachers are to be trained on how to block screen sharing, limit individual chats. and mute students that might be attempting to share inappropriate content with other students. Teachers are not to leave virtual class sessions unsupervised.
Virtual Learning Student Expectations
Students are meant to be present for online classes in appropriate attire (following provided school dress code) in appropriate posture (sitting straight in a chair preferably) and are strongly encouraged to engage in online learning in a public space within their home (not bedroom or bathroom), and within earshot of their caregivers. Should a student be found to engage in inappropriate online behaviours, such as the sharing of inappropriate content, online bullying or other, they will be disciplined using the current policy.
Monitoring Students of Concern
During times of online learning, the counseling department is responsible for identifying families at risk, and students at risk, through appropriate observation of student attendance, student performance, peer reporting or students with previous underlying mental health concerns. The counseling department will continue to monitor students of concern through weekly check-ins and meetings with caregivers especially.
The ARIS Child Protection Policy recognizes the multi-faceted nature of child abuse, which involves the dynamics of the child, family and the community. Our aim is to work primarily for the child, the family and the community, which we call the “Circle of Care”, to signify that each person has an influence and an impact on the child’s development. The “inner circle” will involve parents, teachers,counsellor and other members of the Child Protection team. An incident may be handled within the school by consulting and working within the “Inner circle”. The “outer circle” are the Social Welfare Office, Outside Counselling services, and `higher authorities in the case where an incident of child abuse or neglect must be reported to authorities working outside of the school.
If an incident is seen to be criminal in nature, involving obvious assault, sexual abuse, or neglect, ARIS is obliged to report the incident to the local police. ARIS will comply with all legal authorities and recommendations in response to the incident. The indicators listed above of abuse (physical, sexual emotional, or neglect) will be the guidelines to follow. When a teacher or a fellow peer notices any probable indicators of abuse or neglect, they will promptly report it to the Child Protection Officer. If the case needs to be taken further, the school Child Protection Officer will take it to the Child Protection Team and higher authorities when and if necessary.
School’s Child Protection Team
The school’s child protection team consists of the Director, and the Child Protection Officer (also known as school counsellor).
Step 1 - DISCLOSURES
When there is an incident or a cause to suspect a case of child abuse or neglect, ARIS will ensure that staff members, other workers and even students are clear about what steps to take when concerns arise regarding the safety of children and to know appropriate quarters to disclose a concern. The incident or the suspicion must be immediately reported to either the teacher or the Child Protection Officer. If the cause or the case is reasonable enough to be reported, it will be informed to the Child Protection Team. ARIS will also investigate the possibility of multiple student victims, thus safeguarding the student community.
Process of Disclosure
- Disclosure must be reported to either the Teacher, Child Protection Officer. If it is reported to either one of them, then the other must inform the Child Protection Team. Outside of school hours, or during a period of virtual learning, the Child Protection Officer must be contacted by school email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Child Protection Officer will assess the disclosure and decide whether it is a genuine concern or not. If not, then no further investigation.
- If the incident is a genuine concern, it can either be handled within the school or be taken to the “Outer circle of care”.
- The Child Protection Officer handles it by calling the families of the child/children involved and works with them to support their children.
- If the incident needs outside intervention, upon further investigation, the school will contact any player in the “Outer circle” to handle the incident more professionally and swiftly.
It is mandatory for any allegation, belief or suspicion of sexual, emotional or physical abuse (past or present) by an ARIS employee, sponsor, donor, board member or other person, to be reported immediately to the Child Protection Officer or to the Director. Students, who report incidents of abuse regarding themselves or other children, must be taken seriously and listened to. Once an allegation is made there should be an immediate response that protects the child from further potential abuse or victimization. Where appropriate, the family of the child victim should be informed of the allegation and action proposed and they should be consulted where possible as to the process to be followed. Once a student or a teacher discloses the incident to the teacher or the Child Protection Officer, it will be assessed on whether it will be a reasonable concern or not. By reasonable concern, we mean any action or behavior or incident that has violated any of the guidelines given in the ARIS Child Protection Policy. This process will be steered and guided by the Child Protection Team depending on the incident reported.
If an allegation is made or suspected during a time of online, virtual or home bound learning, the allegation will be handled with equal concern. The case will be investigated virtually using secure online platforms, and all steps will be followed in the same way as if the concern or allegation was made in person.
Documenting the incident
Immediately after receiving a disclosure, the staff member receiving the disclosure must also report it to the Child Protection Officer, if they are not alerted yet. The disclosure has to be fully documented (Form A). The staff member or the Child Protection Officer will document the allegation in the form of a report with details including – time, place, exact incident and any witnesses. This report should be submitted to the Child Protection Officer, who will discuss the case with the Child Protection Team. This report may be used in court if charges are forthcoming. All reports and documents will be confidential within the school records.
Step 2 - RESPONDING TO DISCLOSURES
ARIS has a Child Protection reporting procedure that takes into account the local context of Ghana and the culture of the child involved. If any staff member is alleged to have committed, or been arrested for, or convicted of, criminal offences relating to child abuse then the staff member's contract will be immediately terminated and the case transferred to the school’s disciplinary committee. If the incident occurs in Ghana or involves a Ghanaian, the Executive Board will consult with legal counsel and all appropriate bodies (e.g., Police (DOVVSU), Department of Family and Community Services, such as Social Welfare) to ascertain due process and guide participants accordingly, subject to the nature of the incident reported. If the incident involves an international staff member (non-Ghanaian), then the appropriate Embassies, Diplomatic Missions and bodies will also be contacted and consulted.
Internal investigations will involve a confidential, thorough, impartial and prompt process. The investigation may consist of interviews with witnesses and others as appropriate, collection of information about the alleged conduct, gathering of documentation, or other procedures as appropriate. The individual alleged to have violated this ARIS policy will have the opportunity to present his or her view of the events in question. ARIS will hold its determination until the investigation is over.
Child Abuse and Neglect Cases to be handled by the Child Protection Officer within the school include:
- Students’ relationships with parents (Unhealthy relationships, discipline issues, absence of parents, lack of enough food, lack of hygiene etc.)
- Students relationships with teachers (relationships lacking in professional boundaries)
- Students’ relationships and conflicts with other students (Fights, bullying etc.)
- Depression, Anxiety Disorder, Self-confidence issues and other mental health issues
Child Abuse and Neglect issues to be handled outside of the school by reaching out to the “Outer Circle”:
- Clinical Depression affecting students’ relationships with anyone around them and their academics
- Suicidal thoughts
- Physical abuse or neglect (especially once this is consistent)
- Any kind of sexual advancements, abuse or incest
Investigation of complaints
Physical, emotional or sexual abuse of a child is a crime. ARIS is required to notify authorities when there are reasonable grounds for reporting abuse, particularly if the allegations are made in Ghana or involve a Ghanaian citizen. Allegations involving international staff and students will need to take into account international and national legislation and procedures in order properly
to investigate and address the allegations. ARIS will work closely with relevant embassies and governments to resolve such allegations.
It is important to note that consideration should be given to how the local authorities will treat the alleged perpetrator (e.g., torture, death penalty, corrupt justice systems) as well as the child (e.g., will the child be victimized, criminalized or forced to undergo medical checks).
Step 3 - SUPPORT AND MONITORS
ARIS will ensure that, through awareness and personal and professional conduct, staff and others minimize the risk to children. The Child Protection Officer will continue to observe the child and the family to ensure that the child is safe and can eventually be re-integrated back into school without fear of alienation. The school will provide necessary help and resources from their side to ensure that such cases are dealt with appropriately for the safety of the child and the overall prevention of such cases in the school environment.
Vigilance in Recruitment and Selection
The Human Resources team and Administration Office adhere by strict guidelines in the recruiting process of new staff, consultants, volunteers and interns. The recruitment guidelines will be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that they accurately reflect child-safe recruiting and screening standards.
The recruitment guidelines will include:
- A clear and bold statement that confirms ARIS’s commitment to child protection in all contracts
- Adopting ‘best practice’ recruitment and selection techniques
- Conducting reference checks
- Conducting police checks where required and feasibl
All personnel who work with children will be asked to sign an authorization for a police check. In addition, police checks will be conducted for all full-time, part time and long-term contract employees, regardless of whether or not they work with children.
In cases where international and national criminal record checks cannot be completed in time, or where a country does not provide criminal record checks with adequate reliability, rigorous referee checks will be used instead.
Code of Conduct
All staff, consultants and volunteers will be expected to sign and adhere to a Code of Conduct for the Protection of the Child.
Use of Child Photos and Information
Pictures, images, or other likenesses of children and/or information related to children that could compromise their care and protection will not be made available through any form of communication media without proper protection and understanding of their use. Moreover, any images of children will not be accompanied by detailed information.
Personal relationships or friendships with students outside of school, (regardless of student age) are prohibited by staff and volunteers unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as if a student is a family friend or community member. Communication with students should be used through approved means only.
Physical contact, punitive, sexual, or otherwise inappropriate in nature between staff and children is strictly prohibited and will be disclosed as considered abuse. ARIS notes that corporal punishment is illeagle in the country of Ghana, and will not be tolerated.
Staff is to use ARIS approved communication with students at all times. This includes school email, Zoom, See Saw, and Google Classroom. Any other form of communication through social media must be approved by the Head of School
Verbal communication should be professional at all times. Teachers are to refrain from insulting, using terse or offensive language in the classroom. Teachers should strive to treat all students equally irregardless of race, gender, religion, or nationality.