Frequently Asked Questions
At present, there is no large-scale study in Hong Kong to understand how common child abuse cases are in organisations. Therefore, we can only rely on the figures of the Child Protection Registry of the Social Welfare Department (SWD) to understand the overall situation of child abuse in Hong Kong, which may be insufficient to reflect the prevalence of child abuse in organisations accurately for the following reasons:
- There are no existing clear channels for children to make complaints in Hong Kong. Children may not know how to report an abuse case in organisations to the SWD, and not all child-related organisations are required to report incidents of child abuse to the SWD (or other government departments). Therefore, even if child abuse does occur in an organisation, it may not be truly reflected in the data of the Child Protection Registry.
- Only records of three categories of abusers in a non-family environment can be tracked in the Child Protection Registry, namely teachers, mentors, and coaches. However, the people who abuse children in organisations are not limited to these professionals.
- Many children choose to sue those who had abused them in the past after they have become an adult, and these figures are not reflected in the Registry’s data.
Implementing a policy does not mean that there is a lack of trust in employees. On the contrary, the “Child Safeguarding Policy” sets a clear code of conduct, which can help employees of the organisation understand their role and properly set boundaries of interaction with children. These rules do not only allow them to ensure the safety of children with ease, but also protect their reputation. For example, requiring employees to avoid staying alone with children as much as possible will allow employees to avoid any situations that may arouse suspicion.
Clear child safeguarding standards enable employees to handle different childsafeguarding issues properly and consistently. Now that your employees are already practising the best practice for child safeguarding, why not institutionalise them so that future employees can succeed in carrying them out?
Studies show that sexual abuse of children rarely occurs in isolation from other types of maltreatment. Recent research in the United States indicates that 94% of children who are subject to sexual abuse also experience other types of abuse in the same year, such as neglect, psychological abuse, physical abuse, etc. In fact, different types of child abuse incidents may stem from the same operational defects in the organisation, like no proper regulations of interaction between adults and children, insufficient training to employees on child protection, etc. Therefore, a “Child Safeguarding Policy” can ensure the safety of children more comprehensively.
It is true that many organisations may receive more complaints or there will be an increase in reported child abuse cases after implementing the “Child Safeguarding Policy”. However, this will be a signal to reflect potential risk in child safety, which will enable us to deal with the cases proactively. Preventing parents and children from understanding the organisation’s complaint procedures does not mean that there are no incidents of child abuse or child injury in the organisations. Burying one’s head in the sand is not only useless, but also brings risk to the reputation and operation of the organisation. So why not be open and let all parents know how can an organisation ensure the safety of children, in a way to protect the reputation of the organisation?
The implementation of the “Child Safeguarding Policy” aims to create a culture of “child safety comes first” within the organisation and promote mutual monitoring among the colleagues. This internal regulation mechanism within the organisation can allow us to identify problems that affect child safety or suspected child abuse cases promptly.
In fact, if there is no clear whistleblowing policy in an organisation, many employees will choose not to report child abuse cases in the organisation in order to avoid breaking the harmony with colleagues or supervisors or out of fear of retaliation at work, resulting in inadequate protection of child abuse victims. Therefore, whistleblowing policies in many “Child Safeguarding Policies” stipulate that as long as employees “report in good faith”, regardless of the outcome of the investigation, they will not be punished or discriminated against. Only in this way can employees’ doubts be relieved and their rights be protected while protecting the safety of children.
Undoubtedly, the implementation of the “Child Safeguarding Policy” will bring norms to the operation of the organisation. However, these norms can let employees understand the boundaries of interaction with children, which enable them to ensure the safety of children at ease, and help protect the reputation of employees and organisations.