Child Wise is proud to join the United Nations in celebrating World Children’s Day, which is celebrated on November 20 each year. This day stands as a reminder to us all to continue to promote the rights of children and young people everywhere.
What is the theme for World Children’s Day 2020?
In 2020, the theme is “Investing in our future means investing in our children.”
Investing in our children could be spending the time to build child safe environments within our organisations. This is most successful when children and young people are part of the discussion when it comes to shaping our organisations both as they currently are, but also into the future.
Codesigning programs and services should be something built into everyday practice, not an afterthought or done to suit the needs of the adults within the organisation. Investment can come in multiple ways and should include budget allocation, adequate staffing resources and training.
We often hear from staff within organisations that leadership say children are important to them, but then don’t back this up with action. Cultural change can only come from role-modelling the desired behaviour. If your organisation truly values the voice of a child and wants children and young people to have a genuine say in the decisions that affect them, allocating adequate budget and resources is part of that process. Given the multitude of surveys, focus groups, research projects and media articles relating to children’s mental health during the pandemic and how young people will carry the burden of the pandemic for years to come, it is vital that investment in children and young people occurs now.
How can we ensure children and young people have equity in our organisations?
Article 2 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child is:
All children have these rights, no matter who they are, where they live, what their parents do, what language they speak, what their religion is, their sex or gender, what their culture is, whether they have disability, whether they are rich or poor. No child should be treated unfairly on any basis.
That sounds straight forward enough and should be easy, but is it and what does that look like?
How can we make sure that children can do the things they want to and don’t have to jump over roadblocks because of their religion, the colour of their skin, differing abilities, residential status, gender, sexuality or any other number of diverse characteristics?
Organisations where children feel safe, valued and heard, work with the adults to create a culture of child safety where they will feel more comfortable raising concerns. We must all champion a culture of inclusivity to reduce the risk of bullying and discrimination. In a world which is often harsh and disconnected, each organisation should strive to be at least the one safe space available to the children and young people that they work with.
It is also vital to realise different children have differing needs to feel safe – it cannot be a generic approach for each child.
What is the importance of diversity and role models for children and young people?
Children and young people like to see role models they can identify with. This is why it is so important that your staff and volunteers are representative of the diversity within your group. Principle 4 of the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations states:
“Equity is upheld and diverse needs respected in policy and practice”. An inclusive organisation is one where services are delivered in culturally inclusive and safe ways and staff and volunteers have been trained in cultural competencies.
Providing positive role models young people can identify with is essential to creating a safe and welcoming environment. Young people from diverse backgrounds want to feel a sense of belonging and having adults, people in positions of responsibility, present in the organisation is a key to connecting with young people and ensuring that they feel comfortable to participate and engage in providing feedback. Not only is having a diverse staff group the right thing to do, but it also makes sense to reflect the community you are in to improve recruitment and retention strategies. The staffing group of any organisation should reflect the community they work with.
How can we ensure children and young people understand their rights?
This week we’d like you to make a commitment to help the children and young people who access your organisation understand their rights. In a general sense this can be the United Nations Rights of the Child, but to also help them understand what their rights and responsibilities are within your organisation. How do they:
- Have their voice heard?
- Shape your service/program and feedback their ideas?
- Make a complaint? Are your complaints mechanisms child friendly and well utilised?
- Get involved in reviewing your child safe policy and other documents?
Other areas to consider include:
- Are they consulted on decisions that affect them?
- Do you have a representative Youth Advisory Group or another avenue for their voice to reach your board and leadership?
- Do children and young people understand in simple terms what is in the adult’s code of conduct and do they also have their own code of conduct or group agreement?
How can you embed the rights of the child in your organisation?
Here are some top Child Wise tips to help you champion and embed the rights of the child in your organisation:
Make your policies known: Show the children and young people in your organisation your equity and diversity or social justice policies and make them easy to find for those who may feel embarrassed to ask for them.
Work together: Work with children and their families to create new or updated policies that capture their opinions.
Embrace diversity: Ensure your documents and practice mean your organisation is welcoming and equitable for all and has considered the vibrancy and diversity of your community.
Ask for feedback: Ask your community how your policies and procedures can be made accessible to the children and young people that access your services.
Collaborate with your community: Collaborate and codesign the new materials and be proud of your group achievement.
Live your values: Finally, don’t consider the job complete once the policies have been written and leave them in a metaphorical drawer – live the values and apply the approach every day.
November 20, 2020 will mark the 30th anniversary of Australia adopting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Significant change has occurred in those 30 years, but not all children see the change in the same way.
Keeping children and young people safe is everyone’s responsibility.
We must continue to hear their voice, invest in them and advocate for them to all levels of leadership.
All children have rights. All children.
Click here to download free posters on children's rights.