This Policy and the related procedures are designed to ensure that the children and youth served by York Hills are safeguarded.
The Policy will be read and implemented in a manner consistent with the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017, the Ontario Human Rights Code, and any other applicable legislation as may be introduced or amended from time to time.
This policy applies to all York Hills team members including but not limited to employees, consultants, placement students, board members and all other volunteers. This policy encourages all team members to take measures to protect all children in our services. The policy and related procedures cover instances of violence, abuse, mistreatment or exploitation that are witnessed, suspected, or disclosed by or to a York Hills team member in the course of regular business. Notwithstanding this, York Hills team members are expected to uphold and act in accordance with this policy at all times, whether on or off duty.
Statement of Commitment to Keeping Children Safe
We recognize that we have a fundamental duty of care towards children and we are committed to doing all that is possible through our service delivery practices to keep children safe while they are engaged in our programs and our planned activities.
We oppose all forms of violence and abuse (including physical, sexual, emotional, and neglect), discrimination, exploitation, and manipulation of children.
York Hills’s Commitment to Children
We are committed to:
- Responsibility: Recognizing that child safeguarding is our responsibility, whether or not our individual roles involve working directly with children and youth;
- Accountability: Actively holding ourselves accountable to safeguarding commitments and responsibilities;
- Behaviour: Acting as role models of child-friendly attitudes, behaviours and practices;
- Equality/Acceptance: Treating all children and youth equally with respect and fairness regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, health status, physical and psychological ability, family situation, gender, language, racial origin, socio-economic status, religious belief or sexual orientation, etc.;
- Participation: Ensuring that children are able and enabled to express their views on all matters which affect them and their surroundings, they are listened to, are active in decision-making processes, and their views are respectfully considered;
- Positive Disciplinary Practices: Promoting positive discipline strategies when interacting with children; prohibiting corporal punishment, offensive or abusive language (including teasing and taunting), and the use of gestures or symbols that could be interpreted as insulting or provocative;
- Confidentiality: Except where required by law, keeping details of the victims and alleged perpetrators of abuse in reported cases of abuse confidential;
- Partnerships: Working in partnership with Ministry of Health (MOH), Lead Agency, communities, partner agencies, donors, children and families to promote the welfare, health and development of children, and to protect them from harm.
Definitions of Terms
- Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional ill treatment of a child which can cause severe impacts on the child’s emotional development. This could include making a child feel worthless or unloved, inadequate or not valued. Potential examples of emotional abuse include: bullying, persistent failure to show any respect to a child; constantly humiliating a child by shaming them; continually being aggressive towards a child making them feel frightened; or acting in a way which is detrimental to the child’s self-esteem.
- Physical Abuse: Physical abuse is when a person purposely hurts or threatens to hurt a child. This could include deliberately hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning, scalding, drowning, suffocating or otherwise harming a child.
- Neglect: Neglect involves the deliberate, persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological/emotional needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health and development. As well as being the result of a deliberate act, neglect can also be caused through the omission or the failure to act or protect. Neglect may involve failure to: provide adequate food, clothing or shelter; protect from physical or emotional harm or danger; meet or respond to basic emotional needs; ensure adequate supervision including the use of adequate care-takers; ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment; ensure that the child’s educational needs are met; or ensure the child’s opportunities for intellectual stimulation are met.
- Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child to take part in physically sexual activities, including prostitution, whether or not they are aware of, or consent to, what is happening. This definition also holds whether or not there has been physical contact and whether or not the child is said to have initiated, or consented to, the behaviour. Examples of sexual abuse include: exposure to sexually explicit inappropriate language or jokes; showing a child pornographic material or using a child to produce such material; inappropriate touching; or sexual activity of any kind with a child.
- Child Safeguarding: Child safeguarding is the responsibility that organizations have to ensure their employees, operations and programs “do no harm” to children and that any concerns the organization has about children’s safety within the communities in which they work are reported to the appropriate authorities.
- Discrimination against a child: Any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference which is based on any ground such as, the child’s, or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s, race, colour, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth, or any other protected ground under the Ontario Human Rights Code, which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of all rights and freedoms.
- Exploitation: Child exploitation is the use of children for someone else’s advantage, gratification or profit often resulting in unjust, cruel and harmful treatment of the child. It covers situations of manipulation, misuse, abuse, victimization, oppression or ill-treatment.
- Manipulation: A type of social influence that aims to change the perception or behaviour of others through underhanded, devious and unfair tactics. Manipulation is frequently used to exploit and abuse children.
- Team Member: Includes all York Hills employees, consultants, Board members and volunteers or others employed by, or working with, York Hills and, where possible, individuals employed by, or working for, a community partner.
- Violence Against Children: Within the context of a relationship of trust, responsibility, or power all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, negligent treatment or other exploitation resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity.
Team Members Working with Children will ensure that they
- Promptly respond to and report witnessed, suspected, or disclosed concerns regarding any kind of abuse, exploitation, or mistreatment of a child, in accordance with the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017, as it may be amended, and any relevant York Hills and Ministry policies and procedures.
- Respond to emergencies as per York Hills and Ministry policies and procedures.
- Keep a written record of any injury that occurs, along with the details of any treatment given.
- Maintain the confidentiality of client information, and collect, use, and disclose personal information in accordance with the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 and any relevant York Hills and Ministry policies and procedures. Promote the positive aspects of fair play.
- Treat all youth and children equally with respect and fairness.
- Prohibit foul or abusive language, including teasing or taunting.
- Prohibit the use of gestures or symbols that could be interpreted as offensive or provocative.
- Prohibit the use of banned substances.
- Ensure that activities are appropriate to children’s ages, maturity and ability and that they are safe.
- Recognize the individual capacity and developmental needs of all children and youth and encourage them to actualize their potential without excessive pressure to participate in anything against their will.
- Make sure children are seen and heard and support them to participate in activities.
- Build balanced relationships based on mutual trust that empower children and youth and include them in the decision-making process.
- Always work in a supervised environment.
- Ensure any private conversation with a child is in view of others.
- Be a good role model of child friendly practices.
- Provide encouragement and treat all children equally for their work and during activities.
- Use positive discipline strategies when working with children.
- Request written parental consent for York Hills to transport children to an off-site event.
- Where possible, secure parental consent in writing to act in absence of parents if the need arises to administer emergency first aid and/or other medical treatment.
- Involve parents, guardians and other community members where possible and inform them when problems arise.
York Hills team members are prohibited from any of the following behaviour
- Inappropriate Touch: Any form of improper touch is prohibited. This includes doing things of a personal nature for children that they can do for themselves.
- Illegal or Offensive Conduct: Any form of sexual, physical, verbal or emotional harassment, assault or abuse is prohibited for all York Hills team members and representatives. This includes behaving in ways intended to shame, humiliate or belittle children.
- Being too familiar or too close: Avoid showing favouritism, giving special attention or personally rewarding specific children. Treat every child equally and maintain a supportive, friendly, and safe distance both physically and emotionally.
- Doing anything with a child in private or not visible to others: To eliminate the perception and situations of misconduct, all contact with children must be known to, supported by, and in view of others. Employees are not permitted to transport clients without a second individual (this can include other clients) present at all times.
Management will ensure that
- Policies and plans have been developed that are in line with our commitment to safeguard children;
- A session on this policy and other safeguarding policies are integrated into all team members training sessions;
- All team members receive orientation, training and regular updates on systems, procedures, knowledge and skills required to implement this policy;
- Child safeguarding is integrated into all program and organizational risk assessments, and quality mitigation strategies are put in place;
- Contacts are established with relevant child protection agencies and community organizations providing support on child protection that can provide information, support and assistance to clients and employees;
- Children and parents/guardians are informed of the policies and procedures, and means of contacting York Hills directly for concerns about violence, abuse and/or exploitation of our clients;
- Children are provided with information on where to go for help and advice in relation to violence, abuse, exploitation, harassment and bullying;
- All team members are asked about their compliance with this policy on a regular basis;
- All team members know what issues engage child protection concerns and how to go about reporting concerns;
- All team members are familiar with the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017;
- All team members act in compliance with this policy.
Human Resources will ensure that
- A current vulnerable sector check or police check has been obtained to screen for abuse of vulnerable persons prior to employment where appropriate;
- Three (3) reference checks have been obtained that include questions on child safeguarding protocol issues;
- Team members have been provided with an orientation session and materials where this policy is reviewed in detail and signed off on;
- Team members have signed an Attestation of Commitment to Child Protection Form and a York Hills Code of Conduct agreement; and
- A Child Protection Self-Declaration Form is completed every 2 years, disclosing any prior convictions and maintain a record of these forms. Such record shall include any subsequently-disclosed information or events.
The Board of Directors will ensure that
- Police checks are conducted prior to commencing their roles or having committee members volunteer;
- A signed Child Protection Self-Declaration Form disclosing any prior convictions is obtained, and any subsequent information or events that would require reporting under the Form are promptly disclosed; and
- An Attestation of Commitment to Child Protection Form is completed.
- This policy and its implementation are regularly reviewed;
- This policy is reviewed following any issues or concerns raised about the protection of children within York Hills; and
- This policy is reviewed at least every four years.
The CEO will ensure that
- A Serious Occurrence or Enhanced Serious Occurrence report is submitted to the Ministry of Health, as required;
- Confidential records of all violence and abuse cases have been created;
- Reviews of this Policy occur on a regular basis, and procedures and protocols are revised as needed to ensure the safeguarding of children.
- Allegations of violence and abuse are documented in detail and responded to in accordance with the Procedures for Responding to allegations of misconduct.
Consequences of Violations of this Policy
If a York Hills team member contravenes this policy, whether within or outside the context of our work, in ways that are criminal, grossly infringe children’s rights, or contravene the principles and standards contained in this policy, York Hills will take immediate disciplinary action, and any other action which may be appropriate to the circumstances. For employees, this may mean disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment. In all cases, York Hills will involve local authorities where appropriate, such as the police or child welfare agencies, to ensure the protection of children.