It's important to ensure that you have the correct policies and guidelines in place which cover short-term missions (STM) and volunteering placements.
This should include, at a minimum:
child protection policy (CPP); and
Child Protection Policy (CPP)
We often presume everyone has the same understanding of what constitutes appropriate behaviour and actions towards children, which sometimes is not the case – especially when there are no clear guidelines in place and when people are placed in cross-cultural environments.
Effective child protection policies and codes of conduct are vital to minimise risks to children by:
- providing clear behavioral guidance; and
- outlining child protection and safeguarding commitments, responsibilities and reporting procedures.
A CPP also protects your organisation and staff by demonstrating your commitment to child protection and safeguarding, and creating clear boundaries. This helps minimise the risk of potential misunderstandings or incidents that may lead to allegations of child abuse.
A child protection policy should include:
- introductory information:
- a statement of commitment
- policy purpose
- guiding principles
- recruitment and screening practices
- use of images and information
- reporting requirements and processes
- additional sections:
- education and training
- risk management
- child participation
- reviewing policy
Sharing our STM experiences with family and friends over social media, through images and videos, can be a really powerful way of raising awareness and encouraging support for international missions, development and relief. However, if done incorrectly, the things we post and the stories we tell can cause harm by perpetuating negative stereotypes and violating the rights and dignity of the people we are portraying.
It's important that guidelines are in place so that team members and volunteers are equipped to know how to share and post about their trip in an ethical and effective way.
Guidelines should include sections dealing with:
We must be highly conscious of how we portray people, both in the language and images we use. People should always be presented in a dignified manner, highlighting their agency and avoiding presenting people as helpless and in need of being ‘rescued’.
- Portraying local people:
Truthfulness: Issues, communities and people need to be presented truthfully and we need to ensure we avoid exaggerating facts or sensationalising issues, while also avoiding oversimplifying issues, their causes and solutions, and the diversity of communities.
Children’s situations often evoke particularly strong responses, however we must be careful not to exploit this and instead put the child’s best interests and safety first. Children should never be presented in a vulnerable or submissive manner. They should always be adequately clothed and private or sensitive information should not be made publicly available.
- ·Portraying children:
Guidelines should be in place around how teams are to portray sensitive issues such as trafficking, domestic violence, vulnerable children and families in crisis. Sharing intimate details of someone's experience of exploitation and trauma can cause a survivor to experience feelings of shame or reinforce a negative identity. Extra caution should be exercised with sharing these stories over the internet, as once up, they are very difficult to pull down and the dissemination is not easily controlled.
- Portrayal of sensitive issues:
As a part of showing respect for the people and communities we engage with, we should always seek permission from individuals before taking, posting or distributing their images or stories. Communication guidelines should clarify where informed written or verbal consent is required, including consent around taking photos of children.
- Consent for stories and images:
Be aware that individuals or groups may be put at risk of stigma, reprisal, violence or rejection in their communities as a result of exposing their identity or story. A person’s safety, privacy and reputation should always be put first. Guidance around what information and images can and can't be used should be in place to minimise risk.
- Managing levels of risk:
It's important to avoid only using images that contain children to represent issues that affect the broader community.
This is to avoid giving the false impression that the response to the issue needs to be directly targeted towards children, in isolation from the rest of the community. Children should be shown with their families, their communities and/or siblings or other groups of children.