Since 1991 Child Wise has supported a range of organisations including government, schools, not-for-profit, sport clubs and many other organisations that work with children to improve their child safety practice and work towards becoming safe environments for children and young people.
The City of Casey council engaged Child Wise to provide specialist knowledge and guidance on their child safe journey and has demonstrated outstanding commitment to becoming a child safe organisation.
We have spoken to Steve Coldham, the Strategic Director Community Life at City of Casey who has kindly agreed to share some of his thoughts and reflections on the work that has been done so far.
What prompted you to take action towards improving child safety standards in your organisation?
"The City of Casey has always taken children’s safety seriously. We were quick to form a Child Safe Policy and commitment statement back in 2015. The City of Casey already had an underpinning philosophy of ensuring we protect children in our care before we approached Child Wise. We had policies and procedures in place, however, we knew that to meet the new Child Safe Standards we would require a full review of what we have now and what we would require moving forward. This prompted us to engage an organisation that would provide expert advice and a comprehensive review of our processes and procedures. This is where our relationship with Child Wise began. For the City of Casey, Child Safe Standards is a non-negotiable, we have committed to ensure we take the time to embed Child Safety practices and procedures so that it is in our organisation’s everyday thinking."
How did you find out about Child Wise and the work that we do?
"The City of Casey was looking for an organisation that could provide consultative services along with training. So Child Wise seemed the perfect fit for our needs."
What kind of activities did you undertake as part of ‘becoming child safe’?
"The City of Casey has undertaken various activities and actions to work towards becoming a Child Safe Organisation. We know we have a lot to do, but we are proud of the steps we have taken to-date. Some of these steps have been:
Needs Assessment and Analysis of over 100 policies, procedures and other guiding documents. This review was conducted by Child Wise.
Training of over 20 staff by Child Wise, to become Train the Trainers, to assist with the roll out of training to our front-line children's service staff and staff working directly with children.
We have formed an Internal Response Team that oversees the requirements within the Reportable Conduct Scheme.
We have rolled out face to face training to 575 staff and a further 400 will be trained by May 2018. Online training on the Child Safe Standards has been rolled out to all 1907 staff, volunteers and contractors with more to be included in the coming months. Our Managers, Executive Management Team and Councillors have been trained and briefed in the Child Safe Standards."
How did you find the process?
"The process has been thorough and supportive. Child Wise were flexible and available to assist at each step. In particular, the staff who participated in the Train the Trainer program were so empowered and motivated that they decided to call themselves Child Safe Champions! They are now amazing advocates for Children’s Safety across the organisation and are supporting the roll out of training to around 1,000 staff!"
What are some of the complexities a council faces in regards to child safety?
"It’s imperative that we work with, and alongside governing bodies who oversee the thousands of volunteers who work with children in our community. It is these governing bodies that have a large role to play, to support and guide our community groups towards becoming child safe organisations. At this point in time our focus is our staff and our processes and procedures. We feel it is critical we have this right before we extend to supporting community groups and organisations."
If a child was attending an activity at the council, what would they hear or see that would make them feel safe, valued and respected?
"I would hope they feel safe through the environment we provide and the facilities we maintain and of course the support from our amazing staff. Our children and families are welcomed warmly to our services. We also pay particularly close attention to acknowledging children’s voices by asking for their view on services we provide and how we can improve to cater to their needs. You only have to walk into one of our state of the art kindergartens to notice the care and attention our staff pay to displaying children’s art work within the kindergarten."
What role do you think leadership plays in creating a culture that is child safe?
"Leadership is absolutely vital to creating a child safe culture."
"At the City of Casey we know this will take some time to embed, but so far our Executive Management Team has undertaken a briefing session. Our Councillors and Managers have attended training sessions. All staff have completed or are in the process of completing online training. So, we have made a great start, but the next step and the most important one, is how we continue the message moving forward to embed the topic of Children’s Safety in all that we do."
What has been the most challenging?
"Certainly, the challenge of embedding the culture of Children’s Safety across the entire organisation was always going to be a big task. We overcame this by ensuring we had engagement and a shared understanding from our CEO, Directors, Councillors and our Managers. This was a turning point in the implementation process. We found that through briefings, training and engagement of our leaders, the Child Safe Standards were at the forefront of all our leaders minds. This then filtered to other levels of the organisation, with the Standards embraced and “good will” of all staff. It is still a challenge and we certainly still have some work to do, but we have made a great start."
What has been the most valuable part of working with Child Wise to help you become a child safe organisation?
"Working with Child Wise has certainly provided the City of Casey with a fantastic resource in understanding the complex legislation underpinning the Child Safe Standards. The support and understanding of the Local Government environment has been very valuable and a strength to the relationship."
What are some of the outcomes of working with Child Wise?
"Having now completed the Needs Assessment and analysis of internal documentation we have a clear path and some great ideas on how to tackle certain aspects of the Child Safe Standards. The knowledge base and expertise Child Wise brings, gives us a great platform to strengthen and improve our systems and processes."
To find out how Child Wise can support your organisation, please call 1300 CHILDWISE (1300 24453 9473) or email firstname.lastname@example.org