Statement on child safeguarding and reporting – SOS-Kinderdorf International
Statement – 15 February 2018
Universal child safeguarding policies – children and adults trained to report any safeguarding issues and corruption enables SOS Children’s Villages to act swiftly to protect children
SOS Children’s Villages operates in 135 countries and territories including societies devastated by war, political unrest, epidemics or natural disasters. The organisation employs 40,000 staff and at any one time will have over 84,500 children and young people to which SOS Children’s Villages is either a guardian or child care practitioner and to which it provides housing, education and healthcare. Additionally, over 500,000 children are supported by our family strengthening and emergency response programmes.
Children in SOS Children’s Villages’ care are those who have lost parental care or are at risk of losing it. Often they have experienced violence in their past lives, either at the hands of their families, previous care placements or communities. As an unfortunate consequence, some children in our care can be more easily victimised by further violence. The care we provide is also unique in its model – it is night-and-day, long-term in nature, and this creates a close, family-like setting for the children. The bonds developed between child and caregiver allow for a vulnerable child to heal, to grow and to forge his/her own future in a stable, reliable and loving environment.
There is no doubt, however, that the intense proximity of our care combined with the challenging needs of the children and the difficult circumstances in which we operate means there is greater child safeguarding risk in our work.
In recognition of this inherent risk, we chose to create our own reporting and record-keeping system for child safeguarding in 2008. Our child safeguarding policies are universal. Both children and staff are trained to report any concerns, safeguarding issues and corruption via a range of reporting mechanisms. All trigger dedicated responding and reporting procedures. SOS Children’s Villages annually records all child safeguarding incidents, with special management and monitoring of those deemed critical.
In 2016, we confirmed 37 cases of sexual coercion and abuse across our federation. These were all cases in which a child or young person was compelled to participate in or interact with a sexual activity by an SOS Children’s Villages staff member. When any allegation is reported, we investigate. When a complaint is verified, we act. If an allegation is of a criminal nature, we immediately refer cases to relevant competent authorities. We also inform governments and advise statutory donors according to their requirements. The protection of the children and young people in our care is central to all that we do, and we do not hesitate to suspend staff right away and then terminate contracts when such terrible cases happen.
Our approach has proven effective. In September 2017, following an assessment of current child safeguarding practices, SOS Children’s Villages became one of only four organisations in the child care sector globally to be granted Level 1 Certification by Keeping Children Safe (KCS), a well-respected international child safeguarding organisation that developed the International Child Safeguarding Standards.