The policy - approved by the organization’s International Senate in late April – introduces stronger preventative measures, including risk assessments before new projects are started and annual risk assessments of ongoing programmes. It also enhances the way incidents can be reported, requiring the creation of independent channels such as through Ombuds’ Offices, as well as specific child-friendly reporting channels.
“This policy is an expression of our collective commitment to strengthen safeguarding and programme quality to the highest standard in childcare across our federation,” said SOS Children's Villages International President Dereje Wordofa. “The cornerstone is to ensure compliance to technical, legal and ethical standards to protect the safety and wellbeing of children and young people in our care programmes, everywhere."
Approving an updated Child and Youth Safeguarding Policy was one of the recommendations of the Independent Special Commission as parts its preliminary findings. The previous Child Protection Policy dates back to 2008.
The policy applies to children and young people cared for and supported by SOS Children’s Villages programmes, including those who experienced abuse, neglect and exploitation in the past.
“The implementation will guide coworkers, national boards, our partners and volunteers to do what they can to prevent harm to children and young people - and if abuse occurs, to respond with focus on needs and rights of survivors, strictly and timely,” President Wordofa said.
The new policy will be accompanied by a more detailed Child and Youth Safeguarding Regulation, which will provide further guidance on the implementation and application of the policy. The regulation is expected to be available before mid-2023 and the roll-out of the regulation, along with the policy, will start as soon as possible after the approval of the regulation.
Fifteen principles that guide child and youth safeguarding at SOS Children’s Villages are outlined in the policy. Among those guiding principles are:
Duty of care: SOS Children’s Villages must take appropriate steps to ensure the safety and well-being of all children and youth in contact with the organization.
Do no harm: Any actions intended to safeguard children or youth from harm must not cause further harm or distress to the child or young person (for example, by re-victimizing or re-traumatizing them).
Zero tolerance against any form of child abuse, neglect and exploitation: All those working for or on behalf of SOS Children’s Villages must report all concerns regarding child safety and well-being (even if no evidence exists and it is a vague concern) using the relevant reporting channels. All reports and concerns must be taken seriously, and appropriate action taken in line with the policy and other supporting regulations and guidance.
Victim/survivor-centered approach: When working with children and youth who have experienced harm, SOS Children’s Villages must put the needs and rights of the victim/survivor at the centre of decision making. The victim/survivor has the right to be listened to, believed and supported in a way that respects their wishes and choices and considers their needs and experiences. They have the right to be involved in decisions that affect them.
The policy applies to all those working for or on behalf of SOS Children’s Villages in any capacity, whether paid or unpaid. Besides staff, this includes volunteers, suppliers, partners, donors, and visitors to SOS Children’s Villages premises.
Additionally, the policy strengthens accountability mechanisms in the organization. It explicitly states that SOS Children’s Villages must hold every person found guilty of abuse, neglect, exploitation or other misconduct related to safeguarding accountable.
Besides the new Child and Youth Safeguarding Policy, there have been other changes in the overall framework for child safeguarding in SOS Children's Villages. Apart from the new policy, two new regulations were approved earlier this year by the SOS Children’s Villages Executive Board and the Management Council: Misconduct Incident Management Regulation and Misconduct Investigation Regulation.
These regulations apply to all safeguarding functions, including child and youth safeguarding, adult safeguarding and assets protection. The roll-out of the regulations will be coordinated by the Director for Safeguarding, a new senior level position in the General Secretariat.
Learn more: Safeguarding Info Hub