AMUNO RURAL HUB (amuno). CHILD PROTECTION POLICY

 Policy Statement and Introduction:

AMUNO RURAL HUB (“amuno”) believes the welfare of the child is paramount and that all children without exception have the right to protection from harm or abuse. Many of the children involved in amuno programs come from poor, impoverished communities with inadequate food, sanitation, and/or shelter. Their socioeconomic conditions often result in emotional, health, and physical pressures, making the young and thus already vulnerable, exceptionally so. We place the highest importance on ensuring the safety, protection, and welfare of the vulnerable children with whom we work.

amuno is committed to taking all reasonable steps to promote safe practice and to protect children from harm, abuse, and exploitation. There are a number of safeguards that amuno takes, including rigorous recruitment and selection processes for staff and volunteers who work directly with children, and clear reporting procedures for incidents and suspicions.

amuno firmly upholds a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to any forms of abuse, exploitation, or other misconduct which pose a potential risk to any children. All suspicions and allegations of abuse will be taken with the highest degree of seriousness, investigated to the fullest extent, and responded to swiftly and appropriately.

This policy applies:

amuno staff and volunteers

amuno’s visitors, donors, corporate sponsors, journalists, and supporters

This policy is based on, and reflects the principles of Uganda legislation, Uganda National Bureau for NGOs guidelines, part of The Children Act 2016 as amended (Cap 59, Laws of Uganda), the Policies and Strategies of Ugandan Ministry of Gender Labour & Social Development and amuno’s Code of Practice.

Code of Conduct:

Responsibilities of all acting on behalf of amuno

  1. Work towards promoting and ensuring child protection in all work activities and contacts.
  2. Promote a positive, supportive and secure environment where all children are treated with dignity and respect.
  3. Be conscious of how activities, actions, and situations may be perceived and are intended and thus avoid situations where abuse might be alleged, without impacting work duties.
  4. Promote and encourage a safe, confidential, and accessible environment where opportunities are created for children to communicate openly, taking into account language barriers where appropriate.
  5. Constantly assess and evaluate situations and activities involving children for the risk of potential abuse or harm and make the child’s environment as safe as possible.
  6. Avoid being alone with a child. Ensure that at least two adults are present on library grounds when working at the amuno premises.
  7. Meet children in open environments, including keeping library premises doors and windows open whilst working at amuno center.
  8. Minimize or avoid physical contact with children except for reasons of health and safety or under supervision.
  9. Minimize contact with children outside library time hours & grounds and avoid traveling with children except for reasons of health and safety. Seek approval from a line manager before having any contact with children outside the organization’s hours or before any travel with children.
  10. Avoid any situation which will put a child at risk of any form of harm, abuse, or exploitation.
  11. Report any suspected cases of abuse, harm, or exploitation as per center procedures.
  12. Uphold sanctions never to be practiced, including sexual, emotional, and/or physical harm, abuse, exploitation, or misconduct in any form, as documented and signed by all staff, volunteers, and others acting on behalf of amuno in the Code of Conduct and.
  13. This includes misconduct relating to the use of the internet and photography.

Responsibilities of the Manager

  • Ensure all amuno team members, consultants and volunteers understand their responsibilities for being alert to signs of abuse and for referring concerns to the Manager as per the reporting procedures below.
  • Ensure any visitors to amuno premises are accompanied by some amuno team members, and volunteers trained in child protection.
  • Ensure parents, leaders, and elders in the amuno supported community has an understanding of the responsibility placed on amuno team members, consultants, and volunteers for Child Protection and its policy and procedures.
  • Ensure safe recruitment practices are always followed for Uganda-based teams.
  • Monitor and evaluate activities and staff practices on a regular basis.
  • Follow procedures for reporting and dealing with incidents when any allegation, concern, or suspicion is raised
  • Undertake annual reviews of the Child Protection Policy & its procedures.

Photographs and Images:

amuno protects the privacy of its programs’ beneficiaries. amuno visitors, volunteers, and staff are expected to adhere to the following:

  • Photographers must fully disclose how any photographs of children associated with amuno supported projects and communities will be used.
  • No photographs of children associated with amuno supported projects or communities shall be taken without their consent.
  • Photographers must be supervised by amuno staff or volunteers at amuno-supported projects.
  • All photographs of children used to promote amuno must show children fully clothed, must not portray vulnerability, and must not reveal identifying information.

Definitions and Signs of Abuse:

Child abuse can be physical, emotional and/or sexual and can also include neglect. The table below summarizes each form of abuse and the possible signs that a child may show if he/she has been abused. Should a child exhibit these indicators, it should not automatically be assumed that abuse is occurring; however, any concerning behaviors and/or signs should be reported to the Manager as per amuno reporting procedures (below).

Physical Abuse occurs when a person purposely injures

PHYSICAL ABUSE: May involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent/career fabricates the symptoms of or deliberately induces illness in a child.

Possible signs of physical abuse:

  • Bruises, burns, sprains, dislocations, bites, cuts – Improbable excuses given to explain injuries
  • Refusal to discuss injuries
  • Withdrawal from physical contact
  • Arms and legs kept covered in hot weather
  • Fear of returning home or of parents being contacted – Showing wariness or distrust of adults
  • Self-destructive tendencies
  • Aggression towards others
  • Being very passive and compliant
  • Chronic running away

EMOTIONAL ABUSE: Is the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development. It may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only in so far as they meet the needs of another person. It may feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children. These may include interactions that are beyond the child’s developmental capability, as well as overprotection and limitation of exploration and learning, or preventing the child from participating in normal social interaction. It may involve seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another. It may involve serious bullying, causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of maltreatment of a child, though it may occur alone.

Possible signs of emotional abuse:

  • Physical, mental, and emotional development is delayed. Highly anxious
  • Showing delayed speech or sudden speech disorder
  • Fear of new situations
  • Low self-esteem
  • Inappropriate emotional responses to painful situations. Extremes of passivity or aggression
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Chronic running away
  • Compulsive stealing

SEXUAL ABUSE: Involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, including prostitution, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative (e.g. rape, buggery, or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts. They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual online images, watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.

Possible signs of sexual abuse:

Physical indicators

  • Bruises, scratches, or other injuries to breasts, buttocks, lower abdomen, or genital areas; Painful or frequent urination
  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Unexplained pain, itching, discharge, or bleeding in genital or anal areas
  • Behavioral indicators (to be interpreted with regard to the child’s development stage)
  • Over attention to adults of a particular sex
  • Open displays of sexuality and unusual interest in the genitals of others; Precious knowledge of sexual matters
  • Sudden change in mood or behavior
  • Difficult sleeping and nightmare
  • Regressed behavior, such as bed wetting, separation anxiety, insecurity; Change in eating patterns
  • Lack of trust in familiar adults, fear of strangers, and men
  • Acting out behavior (aggression, lying, running away, suicide attempts); Withdrawn behavior
  • Learning problems at school, loss of concentration
  • Excessive bathing

NEGLECT: Is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development? Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse. Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent or career failing to:

  • Provide adequate food, clothing, and shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment)
  • Protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger
  • Ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate caregivers)
  • Ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment

Possible signs of neglect:

  • Frequent hunger
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Constant tiredness
  • Inappropriate clothing
  • Frequent lateness or nonattendance at school – Untreated medical problems
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor social relationships
  • Compulsive stealing
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Procedures

Managing Disclosures

In the event of a child disclosing information containing evidence of, or potential for, harm, abuse, or exploitation, amuno team members or others acting on behalf of the center are to:

  • Listen carefully and not make judgments or false promises about keeping secrets
  • Not reject anything as untrue and reassure the child that they believe him/her keep questions to an absolute minimum to ensure a clear and accurate understanding of what has been said.
  • Tell the child that it is not his/her fault and he/she is not responsible for the abuse
  • Let the child know that a report will be made so that the authorities can help to stop the abuse. Reassure the child that his/her safety and needs are of primary
  • importance.
  • Tell the child they are pleased he/she told them
  1. Reporting Suspicions, Concerns, or Incidents

In the case of suspicion, concern, or witness to the incidence of misconduct, amuno staff members and others acting on behalf of the charity are required to follow the following procedures:

  • Immediately report the incident to amuno’s Manager. amuno’s Project Coordinator may assist with translation.
  • The person who received the disclosure must fully document the allegation, including the time and place of the alleged incident, who was present, and what allegedly occurred. This written report must be submitted to the amuno Executive Director within 24 hours of the disclosure
  • The Manager shall report any allegation of physical or sexual abuse to local authorities through The Uganda Child Helpline for child abuse and trafficking (116) as well as the nearest police station. Other allegations will be reported to the local authorities at the discretion of the Manager in consultation with the official Authorities. The Manager will document his/her actions.
  • Failure to report a suspicion, concern, or witness to the incidence of misconduct will result in disciplinary action.
  • Following the report of suspected or witnessed child abuse, harm, or exploitation:
  • The Manager, in conjunction with the project coordinator, is responsible for informing the child’s family of the allegation and any action proposed and for ensuring that every effort is made to remove or reduce immediate or future danger or risk of harm to the child.
  • In the event of a serious allegation, there will be an emergency meeting of the official Authorities called within 48 hours of the report being made. The amuno manager and official Authorities will agree on the extent of action taken overseas.
  • Overseas police forces will be informed according to legal requirements and obligations
  • For reports relating to amuno appointed field staff members, volunteers, amuno team members or others acting on behalf of the center, all contact and activities with children will be or near suspended whilst an investigation is conducted.
  • For non amuno appointed staff (e.g. members of the public), the local authorities will be informed and involved in investigations if necessary.
  • Any amuno field staff members, volunteers, or other person acting on behalf of the center found guilty of misconduct will be immediately terminated from duties and will not be allowed contact with amuno children.
  • Any non-amuno appointed staff found guilty of misconduct will be reported to Uganda’s Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, or their respective organization, authority with a request for termination.
  • amuno will aim to conduct all investigations both internally and in conjunction with relevant external government agencies, with the highest degree of professionalism, confidentiality, respect, sensitivity, and fairness to protect all those involved. Every effort will be made to obtain independent, confidential interpreters when needed.
  • Children who have been abused or are suspected of being abused will be supported and closely monitored with the highest degree of care and sensitivity wherever possible. Through supported education, it would be amuno’s aim to help restore a stable, secure and predictable element in the child’s life.
  1. Recruitment and Selection of Staff

The center personnel is recruited and selected to ensure their suitability to work with vulnerable children. amuno team members, consultants, and volunteers are representatives of the center and the values it upholds, thus are widely recognized as trusted and safe to children. They work with and are thus given access to contact with vulnerable children, which therefore requires rigorous screening and checks prior to assignment placing. The following are some of the measures which amuno takes to ensure the safe placement of suitable and trustworthy staff:

  • It is made clear to all staff, consultants, volunteers, and amuno applicants that amuno deems child protection matters of utmost importance, from the initial stages of recruitment onwards, and that it permeates every level and aspect of working for amuno.
  • Job and volunteer advertisements contain job descriptions and key selection criteria to ensure that suitable candidates are attracted to the relevant position.
  • All staff, consultants, and volunteers are required to read amuno’s Child Protection Policy and procedures. Each staff member, volunteer, unsupervised visitor, and trustee must sign a declaration form indicating that he/she agrees to uphold safe practices and has not, nor intends to, commit any form of child abuse.
  • All staff, consultant, volunteer, and trustee applicants are required to provide at least 2 personal and 2 professional references with their applications. From these references at least 3 referees are contacted by telephone and interviewed about the applicant’s integrity, history, trustworthiness, responsibility, and conduct with children. Referees also complete a signed written reference in support of this.
  • Staff, consultant, volunteer and trustee applicants must document their criminal history and consent to a criminal records check his/her application. amuno may conduct the criminal records screening or may ask the applicant to complete and submit the criminal records check.
  • Every effort is made to interview volunteer applicants in person prior to acceptance into amuno’s volunteer program. When a meeting in person is not feasible, a telephone interview will be conducted.
  • All volunteers are interviewed on arrival in amuno prior to commencing work. If there are any concerns about the suitability of a volunteer, the Manager is informed and the volunteer is withheld from commencing work until the manager has fully investigated any areas of concern and completed extra background checks. If there are any irresolvable, reasonable doubts relating to a volunteer’s history or suitability to work with vulnerable children, the position will be revoked without prior warning or notice.
  1. Monitoring and Evaluation

amuno pledges to regularly and routinely monitor all team members’ conduct and activities to ensure the ongoing protection of children is maintained to the highest level possible. This is achieved through:

  • All team members/staff be aware that their conduct will be monitored and reviewed regularly according to the Child Protection policy and procedures. This will be conducted as unobtrusively as possible with minimal impact on personal integrity and duties
  • The Manager meeting regularly with staff/team members and volunteers in amuno, to monitor and evaluate conduct, duties, and behavior.
  • Daily supervision of staff and volunteers by school teachers and administrators trained in child protection.
  • Maintaining open lines of communication between school teachers/administrators and amuno field team members as well as between amuno field staff and overseas-based volunteers, to encourage timely and effective reporting of any concerns or incidents or misconduct involving child protection.
  • Annual review of policies and procedures for child protection led by the amuno manager. In the event of an incident of misconduct, the charity, school, and staff operations will be immediately evaluated and reassessed on all levels in order for necessary changes and extra safeguards to be added.
  1. Confidentiality

All amuno team members shall ensure personal and identifying material particularly that which would place a child at risk of harm, remains private and confidential. All written reports of a confidential nature shall be circulated to the manager only, unless permission of the person/s involved is obtained, or if for legal purposes documents are required by external agencies and departments. All records, documents and correspondence involving material of a confidential matter should be kept securely, away from children or public access. Any breaches of confidentiality will be taken seriously and dealt with accordingly by amuno.

  1. Record Keeping

Every effort will be made to ensure the maintenance of accurate records of concerns, risks, incidents, and accidents, even when there is no need to refer the matter immediately. These records will aim to be objective and without personal bias wherever possible and include any information from relevant witnesses. They shall be dated and signed and kept always in the possession of the amuno Manager.

  1. Training and Education

amuno is committed to the creation, implementation, and ongoing input of training and education strategies that will assist in creating a safer environment for its vulnerable children. Although still in its early stages of development, future plans will aim to include:

  • Collaborating with other Ugandan-based and international NGOs to develop culturally appropriate additions to child protection issues, safety, and human rights.
  • Working towards programs that will promote and encourage children to develop the skills they need to recognize and stay safe from abuse.
  • Developing culturally sensitive programs involving the community, to raise awareness amongst local staff on child protection issues, signs and indicators of abuse, and procedures for dealing with suspected misconduct.
  • Providing children with access to information and education material on acceptable conduct and self-protection from abuse.