Child Protection Policy (2023)
Applicable to: All SIKESO Staff, SIKESO Experts, Research Associates, SIKESO Volunteers and External Staff
The Advisory Center for the Support of the Family- SIKESO, as a non-governmental organization, that works underpinned the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), is committed to ensuring general children’s rights including their protection rights. SIKESO is committed to ensuring that children’s right to protection under Article 19 of the UNCHR is fully implemented. Specifically, SIKESO Staff, SIKESO Experts, Research Associates, and SIKESO volunteers are committed to fighting for children’s rights, promoting child-safe practices and protecting children from every harmful, neglect and exploitation status.
SIKESO’s main value is safeguarding and defending children’s rights. We are all devoted to protecting children from damage, abuse, neglect, and exploitation. SIKESO is dedicated to adhering to and implementing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), the most fundamental text on children’s rights, which has been ratified by 194 countries. Cyprus ratified it on December 28, 1990, under Law 243/90 as the “United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child” and is a national law with heightened legal validity, i.e., it takes precedence over a contradictory provision of law.
The child is today recognized as a legal subject, with individual, political, economic, social, and educational rights recognized in (Cyprus) law, which distinguished in protection (against all forms of abuse, exploitation, discrimination, etc.), benefits (in education, health, welfare, entertainment, etc.) and participation ((right to express an opinion, information, leisure time, etc.).
It is of great importance that the knowledge and acceptance of the Child Protection Policy is a core prerequisite for the recruitment of SIKESO employees and volunteers who are committed to respecting and follow fully and carefully SIKESO’s Child Protection Policy.
- Definition under the Child Protection Policy
- According to the UNCRC, a child is defined as any person under the age of 18 (UNCRC Article 1).
- An unaccompanied minor/ unaccompanied child is a person under the age of 18 who is “distinguished from both parents and is not being cared for by an adult who has the responsibility to do so by law or custom” (UNHCR). Unaccompanied minors come to the EU to seek international protection (asylum) from wars and conflicts, poverty or natural disasters, discrimination or persecution, or serious harm, i.e., to seek a better life for economic and aspirational reasons; to join family members; or as victims of human trafficking destined for exploitation, such as sexual exploitation and forced labor or services (European Commission).
- Child abuse includes any actions that cause actual or potential harm to a child, such as physical abuse, emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse and exploitation, neglect, or negligent treatment, and commercial or other exploitation of a child. Abuse of children can be intentional or result from inaction on the part of the caregiver. Any action or inaction on the part of people, organizations, or procedures that causes injury to a child or puts at risk their safety, dignity, or chance for a safe and healthy growth into adulthood is considered child abuse. According to the UNHCR, “child abuse” encompasses neglect as well as emotional, sexual, and physical abuse (UNCHR).
- In this policy, child protection is defined as the responsibilities and preventative and responsive measures and activities that SIKESO must take into consideration to successfully protect children and at the same time ensure that no child is subject to abuse during his/her association with SIKESO Staff, SIKESO Experts Research Associates and SIKESO volunteers, including SIKESO programs and projects.
It is of great importance to add that if SIKESO recognizes that there is any concern or threat on the welfare of a child or there are reasonable suspicions that a child has been subject to child abuse, SIKESO will act in line with relevant global and local procedures to cope and overcome this issue.
- “SIKESO Staff” refers to those who are paid a regular wage to work in any department of SIKESO.
- “SIKESO experts and research associates” is a term used to describe a variety of paid people with scientific backgrounds who have agreed to collaborate with SIKESO on initiatives and programs both domestically and abroad.
- “SIKESO volunteers” is a term used to describe a variety of individuals who work voluntarily in SIKESO programs and projects and may interact with children during such activities.
- “Social Service Manager (SSM)” is A team member designated by the Board to oversee all areas of the Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy and its execution.
- “External Staff” is a term used to describe a variety of external experts who collaborate with SIKESO on initiatives and programs both domestically and abroad (including any work involving children), such as journalists and video reporters.
- Scope of the Child Protection Policy
All SIKESO Staff, SIKESO experts, Research Associates, SIKESO volunteers, and External Staff are subject to the Child Protection Policy and are required to abide by its guidelines as well as be aware of the potential consequences of breaking it. This policy aims to establish a minimal worldwide standard for all SIKESO Staff, SIKESO experts, Research Associates, SIKESO volunteers, and External Staff.
This strategy is guided by a set of UNCRC-derived principles, which include the following:
- All children delight in equal protection from abuse and exploitation.
- Every child has a basic right to life, survival, and development. The Child-centered community development approach of SIKESO provides a basis for ensuring the protection of children’s rights from adverse effects, abuse, and exploitation.
- Inequality and discrimination should be tackled, and all children should be encouraged to reach their full potential.
- Children shall be guaranteed the right to openly voice their opinions, which will be which will be taken into consideration in accordance with their age and level of maturity. Every child will be treated with dignity and respect regardless of gender, age, nationality or ethnic origin, religion, political beliefs, physical or mental health, sexual preference, gender identity, family, socioeconomic and cultural background, or history of any legal conflict.
- The main responsibility of all SIKESO Staff, SIKESO experts, Research Associates, SIKESO volunteers, and External Staff is to assist in the care and protection of the children.
- The Child Protection Policy document is posted online on the official page of SIKESO, and it will be attached to each SIKESO project that will involve children (as well as supplied to all partners in each project), ensuring that every child and family has access to it.
- The main responsibility of the children who come into contact with SIKESO lies with the organization itself. No kid should be harmed as a result of their participation in a SIKESO program or as part of any SIKESO awareness-raising or public campaign.
- These specific obligations relate to individuals or organizations affiliated with SIKESO. As a result, everyone connected with SIKESO activities must be aware of and abide by the rules of this policy.
- Child Protection: Vision of SIKESO
The main concern of SIKESO is the respect, protection, and empowerment of children as their capacities evolve to contribute actively to the development of Child protection measures within SIKESO. That is the reason why SIKESO tries to create a safe environment for children in all aspects of work and program implementation.
This policy seeks to ensure that SIKESO Staff, SIKESO experts, Research Associates, SIKESO volunteers, and External Staff, as appropriate to their engagement with SIKESO, are skilled, confident, understand, accept, and are well supported in meeting their child protection responsibilities and engaging positively with children and communities in ways that enhance overall program goals and commitments of SIKESO.
Children should be protected by everyone who works with or engages with SIKESO. According to the policy, the following responsibilities are mandatory.
SIKESO Staff, SIKESO experts, Research Associates, SIKESO volunteers, and External Staff must:
- Never exploit or harm a child in any way.
- Notify the responsible services (Child Protection Department by region) when you receive a report of violence.
- Fill out a form and submit any information or alarm on abuse to a common register. The information documented in the case is kept in strict confidence, which will be violated only if it is in the best interests of the child.
- In compliance with this policy and any applicable local office processes, report any concerns they may have about child abuse and child protection.
- React in line with this policy and any appropriate local office procedures to a child who may have been harmed or exploited.
- Provide complete, discreet cooperation to any inquiry about worries or claims of child abuse.
- Help create an atmosphere in which children are valued and encouraged to voice their issues and rights.
- It is imperative that children are treated with dignity, respect, and integrity, considering their best interests, and ensuring they are not in danger or exposed to harm. For instance, make sure that you follow the relevant SIKESO policies and procedures when taking pictures or videos during visits, engaging with kids, or creating stories about kids.
- Never accept or ask for personal contact details from any child or family associated with SIKESO work, such as email, phone numbers, address, social media contacts, skype etc. or share their own personal details with such individuals. The only exceptions for SIKESO Staff members are when something has been specifically approved for business needs in a way that complies with SIKESO policies and procedures, has the approval of the child’s parents or legal guardian, and is overseen by the appropriate line or supervisory manager.
- Information that identifies sponsored families or children should never be disclosed, nor should you encourage the disclosure of such information through any media, unless doing so is permitted by established SIKESO policies and procedures and/or with SIKESO express agreement. Media includes paper, photographs, and social media.
- Never interact with a child or family member connected to SIKESO work without first getting permission from a SIKESO Staff member. Such communication can take several forms, such as in-person meetings and correspondence via emails, letters, and social media.
SIKESO Staff should:
- Comply with the behavior detailed in the SIKESO Code of Conduct.
- While working with SIKESO, all staff members are required to make sure that SIKESO Experts and Research Associates follow the organization’s code of conduct or guidelines for appropriate behavior towards children that are created by SIKESO staff members using the Code of Conduct as a guide.
- Every member of the SIKESO staff is responsible for making sure that SIKESO workers who have reported child abuse or are under suspicion of it, receive the proper care, support, and protection when handling all facets of the case, including any safety issues and possible retaliation that may result from the incident or from reporting such concerns.
- Incident identification and reporting guidelines
This document outlines the framework and methods to identify, report, and handle incidents. The 5R’s procedures serve as a guide to remembering how to address Child Protection incidents, suspicions, concerns, or disclosures: Recognize, Respond, Record, Report, and Refer.
Abuse of children occurs when adults cause physical, psychological, or other harm to them. Abuse can be categorized as:
Emotional Abuse: It is the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child or a pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth. This may include constant criticism, threats, or rejection, as well as withholding love, support, or guidance. Emotional abuse can involve also deliberately trying to scare, humiliate, isolate, or ignore a child. It may feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children or preventing the child from participating in normal social interaction. Also, it may involve the child seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another or causing children to frequently feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children.
Physical Abuse: It is defined as any non-accidental physical injury to the child, and it may involve striking, kicking, shaking, poisoning, burning, scalding, drowning, biting the child, or any action that causes physical harm or illness to a child.
Sexual Abuse: It is a form of child abuse that includes sexual activity with a minor. A child cannot consent to any form of sexual activity, period. When a perpetrator engages with a child this way, they are committing a crime that can have lasting effects on the victim for years. Child sexual abuse does not need to include physical contact between a perpetrator and a child. Some forms of child sexual abuse include exhibitionism, or exposing oneself to a minor, fondling, intercourse, masturbation in the presence of a minor or forcing the minor to masturbate, obscene conversations, phone calls, text messages, or digital interaction, producing, owning, or sharing pornographic images or movies of children, sex of any kind with a minor, including vaginal, oral, or anal, sex trafficking and any other contact of a sexual nature that involves a minor.
Neglect: It is the ongoing failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs. A child might be left hungry or dirty or without proper clothing, shelter, supervision, or health care. This can put children and young people in danger, and it can also have long-term effects on their physical and mental well-being.
Child Sexual Exploitation: It is a type of sexual abuse in which a child can be exploited for money, power, or status.
The categories of abuse can occur individually or together. The perpetrator of abuse most of the time is someone who knows the child, for example, a member of the school staff or a family member.
If someone perceives or hears that a child is being abused or is at risk or in danger to being abuse, even if the truth of the disclosure is uncertain, she/he must respond in accordance with these procedures and report it to the Social Service Manager to take the necessary action immediately.
In the event of a disclosure or allegation, the person reporting the abuse should not be initially questioned, but what they say will be accepted and assurances must be given that the person reporting the abuse did the right thing.
It is necessary to carefully record what is said by the social services manager and the person reporting. The recording must be authentic, without reference to subjective opinions.
All SIKESO Staff, SIKESO experts, Research Associates, SIKESO volunteers, and External Staff must report any incident within 24 hours of suspicion or disclosure. It is the duty of any member of the SIKESO team who discovers a case of possible abuse to report the incident to the Director of Social Services. It is not an individual decision whether a suspicion or allegation is true or not.
Unless a child is in immediate danger and emergency services must be contacted, the social services manager has the authority to act immediately on receipt of a report and necessarily within 24 hours of since received. Referrals must be made in accordance with applicable laws and guidelines in the country where the abuse is alleged to have occurred. Additionally, if the potential attacker is employed by an organization registered in another country, it may also be necessary to notify authorities in that country. Any allegations involving Cypriot citizens (whether occurring in this country or abroad) must be reported to the Police of Cyprus.
- Implementation, Monitoring and Sanctions
The SIKESO Board of Directors is responsible for this policy and is responsible for its implementation. The Social Services Manager is responsible for administering the Child Protection Policy and is responsible for communicating with children, their parents, and their legal representatives. If the reporting person requests information for further support and advice, the social work manager is responsible for providing guidance and contact.
Monitoring compliance with this policy is carried out through mandatory monitoring of the standards of implementation of the Child Protection Policy and the SIKESO Code of Conduct by all SIKESO departments.
Violations of this policy and failure to meet these responsibilities may result in the following sanctions:
- For SIKESO Staff – disciplinary action leading to possible dismissal.
- For SIKESO experts and research collaborators, volunteers, and external employees – up to and including termination of all relationships, including contractual and collaborative agreements with SIKESO.
- If applicable – appropriate legal action or other similar action.
When there are concerns regarding the conduct of SIKESO Staff, SIKESO experts, Research Associates, SIKESO volunteers, and External Staff in relation to child protection and/or major violations child protection policy, the matter will be investigated in accordance with that policy, with consideration given to referral to a competent criminal investigation authority under the laws of the country in which they work; and/or by SIKESO in under disciplinary proceedings. This may result in disciplinary action against SIKESO Staff.
- Selection and Training of Staff
When a position becomes vacant at SIKESO, an announcement and/or call will be published, including a description of the organization, job description, selection criteria and required documents.
- Selection by documents – CV, cover letter, letters of recommendation and certificates, and criminal record certificates.
- After selection based on profile, selected candidates will be invited for interview. The interview includes questions designed to explore the candidate’s professional experience and experience communicating with children.
- The selected candidate will receive a copy of the Child Protection Policy and sign a statement confirming that he or she has read, understood, and pledged to respect it.
- Each newly appointed employee must undergo training according to a pre-designed program, aimed at familiarizing him with the vision, objectives, and work organization of the association, as well as child protection policies and procedures.
- Each staff member also receives ongoing training to recognize the signs of violence and take child protection measures.
- When the organization involves volunteers, candidates also participate in the same procedure.
- Members of the Board of Directors and the General Assembly of the association are promptly informed on Opportunity and Protection Society policy relating to child protection. They receive a copy of the Child Protection Policy and sign a declaration confirming that they have read, understood, and committed to respecting it.
- Individuals hired as independent contractors will receive a copy of the Child Protection Policy and sign a statement confirming that they have read it, understand it, and will comply with it.
- Personal Conduct
SIKESO does not prescribe the belief and value system by which SIKESO Staff, SIKESO experts, Research Associates, SIKESO volunteers, and External Staff conduct their personal lives. However, actions taken outside of business hours that appear to conflict with this policy will be considered a violation of this policy.
SIKESO Staff, SIKESO experts, Research Associates, SIKESO volunteers, and External Staff are required to remember the principles of the Child Protection Policy and become more aware of how they can be seen both in and outside of the workplace.
- General Data Protection Regulation policy
All children’s data (such as name, address, CV, etc.) will be processed in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 45/2001 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of their personal data by the EU institutions and agencies and the free movement of this data. Any personal data requested will be used only for the intended purposes, i.e processing the data according to the specifications of the project requirements, managing the administrative and financial aspects of the projects if eligible and disseminate results through appropriate EU instruments.
All sensitive data (psychological assessments, social history, medical history, etc.) is kept in a secure, password-protected space in case the data is digital and becomes compromised lock in case of physical information (such as medical examination).
Sensitive children’s data (including photos, videos, and interviews) is collected only with the express consent of the child, their parents, or legal guardians. The data that will be collected after all will be protected and will not be published without their explicit consent.
This policy has been reviewed and approved by:
President of Management
Board of NGO SIKESO