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  • Writer's pictureHelen Haydock

Setting boundaries for child safety: the importance of a code of conduct

In our previous post, we discussed the steps organisations can take during the recruitment process to ensure child safety. Now, we'll delve into the significance of a code of conduct and related policies within child safe organisations. Establishing a shared understanding of appropriate behaviour is critical to reducing risks to children and empowering individuals to raise concerns. Let's explore the importance of a code of conduct in creating a safe environment for children and examine a real-life scenario.


The power of a code of conduct

A code of conduct plays a vital role in aligning everyone within an organisation with acceptable behavior when interacting with children. While many organisations have a code of conduct that staff members agree to during the onboarding process, it's crucial to ensure that it remains a dynamic and living document. This means actively discussing and reviewing the code of conduct and ensuring that not only staff but also families and children are aware of its contents.


Case study

To illustrate the significance of a code of conduct, let's break down a case example. Meet Mr. Jones, a volunteer at a local youth centre that doesn't have a code of conduct. When a child, Miles, mentions his inability to continue attending due to transportation issues, Mr. Jones offers to give him a ride. Then, Mr. Jones exchanges contact information with Miles and begins engaging with him on social media, emphasising the need to keep their connection a secret. Another volunteer finds out about this and question's their relationship but their concerns are dismissed.


Where are the boundaries?

In this scenario, the absence of a code of conduct leaves room for ambiguity and unclear boundaries. Mr. Jones can freely develop a relationship with Miles, potentially grooming him with harmful intentions. Without clear guidelines, other volunteers’ concerns about Mr. Jones developing a personal relationship with Miles may go unaddressed.


When everyone knows the rules

Now, let's envision a different scenario—one in which the youth center has a comprehensive code of conduct that all staff members are familiar with, linked to both complaint and disciplinary processes. In this case, another volunteer questioning Mr. Jones' behaviour would recognise its inappropriateness and know the appropriate channels within the organisation to escalate their concerns.


Families need clarity

Expanding on the concept, imagine that not only staff members but also families receive clear information about acceptable staff/volunteer behaviour and contact with children, including online interactions. In such a scenario, Miles' parents would be more likely to recognise the concerning nature of Mr. Jones' contact with him and know who to approach within the organisation to address the issue.


Create a culture of safety and care

A well-defined code of conduct is an essential component of a child safe organisation. It provides a framework for acceptable behaviour, empowers staff to address concerns, and keeps families informed about expected staff/volunteer conduct with children. When assessing organisations your children are involved with, make sure there is a clear understanding of expected behaviour and know who to contact in case of concerns. By promoting a culture of accountability and transparency, organisations create safer environments for children to thrive.


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