During National Child Protection Week, we heard from young people at the Child Wise "Putting Children First" youth panel discussion about what makes and what doesn’t make them feel safe and heard in the organisations where they spend time. Here is what we learned.
1. Having a role in shaping policies and procedures
Inviting children and young people to contribute to how policies and procedures are framed is imperative for an organisation to be truly child safe. Note: this shouldn’t be a one-off event.
You should always ask for our opinion. Not just when you want our opinion, or when it suits you.
The young panellists flagged that it’s important to check in regularly and to make sure the initiative to consult with children and young people stems from a sincere rather than a tokenistic approach.
Do regular check ins. How are we doing? What can we do better? We know when you’re doing it just to tick a box.
2. Feeling safe in physical and online environments
When children and young people are in vulnerable situations, their perception of and response to the physical environment they’re in is heightened. Think of the amount of light in a room, the colour and set up of a room or physical space. If it’s dark and scary, it’s likely even more scary for them. In an online environment, being able to see everyone’s faces on a conference call may make them feel more at ease.
Ask children and young people where they would feel comfortable in meeting or speaking with you.
3. Noticing when something’s wrong
If you work closely with children and young people, for example as a teacher, case worker, tutor or a coach, do something if you notice a change in behaviour or any potential signs of abuse. Don’t wait for the child or young person to raise it as an issue, as they may be feeling scared or unsure what to do. What the young panellists flagged as crucial, is to approach the child or young person with empathy.
Notice when something wrong rather than waiting for us to raise it.
4. Treating young people’s opinions as valuable
What we consistently heard from young people at the panel was that they felt like their opinions were treated as less valuable than those of adults and too often feel dismissed as “too young to know anything”. However, the young panellists reminded us that “children nowadays know more about the world than ever because of the Internet” and that adults can’t fully understand the challenges youth face today.
Young people are experts in their own lives.
5. Admitting what you don’t know
It makes children and young people feel safer if the adults around them admit that they don’t have all the answers. Honesty and empathy go a long way in helping them feel safe and heard.
It’s better to ask a silly question, than to make a silly mistake.
On the other hand, pretending to know everything is more likely to shut down the conversation and miss an opportunity to learn from young people and hear their thoughts and views of the world. Being a young person today is not the same as being a young person ten years ago, or even last year! Their experiences are vastly different.
You may be wondering, why is listening to the voices of children and young people important and how is this relevant to your workplace?
Empowering children and young people to be active, vocal and confident participants in organisations is essential if they are to become genuinely ‘child safe’. Listening to them is critical for organisations to understand what they perceive to be a safe environment and who they trust in communicating key messages to them.
What can you do to ensure children and young people have a voice in your organisation?
Our blog post, 'How to Listen to Children and Young People in Organisations' provides some helpful tips that you can start to apply in your work immediately and considerations that will help you in the process.
Commitment to the empowerment of children and young people is vital, and understanding how this can be done effectively is key. However, organisations aspiring to be truly child safe must invest in developing an infrastructure that enables genuine, sustained change in culture and practice.
At Child Wise, we pride ourselves in supporting organisations to embed a child cafe culture centred around the voices of children and young people.
How can Child Wise help you hear the voices of children and young people and promote their participation and empowerment more effectively?
- We provide tailored consulting services designed to help your organisation embed the voice of the child and strengthen your child safety practice.
- We can provide a coach to support your child safety officers or leadership team to build internal capacity to review and improve your operations through a child safety lens.
- Our virtual classroom training programs can help equip your team members or staff with the knowledge and skills to facilitate meaningful consultation with children and young people, as well as understand the child safety legislative landscape.
Contact us to speak to one of our child safety experts and find out how we can help your organisation be child safe.