Creating a Culture of Child Safety

Offering children the protection and care that they deserve
Nicole Talarico
May 2, 2023
Child safety
Child empowerment must be included in any child safety blueprint.

My work over the last thirty years as an early childhood professional, mentor, presenter, child rights advocate and now author has led me to taking action to see the early childhood sector take a great leap forward, to be working from a position of earlier identification and prevention of abuse against children.

As a consultant - the need to write a book came from initially wanting to address the confusion around who has to report child abuse? As citizens, we all have an ethical obligation and then there are some of us who, due to our roles, are mandated to report. The answer is EVERYONE. So why is it then that we don’t have a ‘raise concerns’ societal attitude? After all, preventing harm to children is not a new phenomenon, Australia ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990.

The research for my book steered me to investigate why child abuse is still a global concern. I did ascertain multifaceted explanations for how abuse seeps through our systems so we can pragmatically work against these barriers.

The second priority for me when writing my book was to dissect the wealth of guiding documentation our sector has to support educators to ensure children are protected. The large amount of advice has created confusion and the overwhelm is stifling people to take action. It is reassuring to know that I have mapped out significant information, for the many varying jurisdictions in Australia, and dedicated this to a chapter.

Many educators reveal to me that they are unsure of what abuse entails and didn’t realise neglect and family violence are included. This actuality compelled me to ensure I had a third priority; to make abuse actualities clear and highlight what indicators might look like when engaging with children. Educators are in a powerful position to positively impact communities through earlier identification and being able to convey avenues of support.

The development of this book really made it into a practical tool, to give clarification about what to do to build capacity in creating a strong culture of child safety and what environments are favourable for children to thrive. Each chapter begins with ‘insight for educators/practitioners’ and concludes with, a dot point summary, before a series of reflection questions.

This new paradigm of protection, requires a thorough and transparent approach and to enact this discourse we must;

• Audit our environments - both on the premises and settings we visit through regular outings and one-off excursions

• Consider every interaction between adults and children

• Redevelop of risk management processes (with a spotlight on increased supervision)

• Review HR Systems - advertising, induction, orientation, handbooks, job performance and ongoing training needs to ensure child safety is thoroughly covered

• Be explicit in policy and practice so that governance information and decision making includes all stakeholders.

For information sharing, communication and feedback we need to create multiple tools to ensure accessibility. This means we need to reinvent what ‘connection’ and ‘consultation’ with families and community looks like and consider pragmatic language to ensure social and cultural safety.

Safety is more than physical protection. It is emotional, cultural, social and spiritual wellbeing too. We cannot provide a safe culture in our individual contexts without a lens of equity and inclusion. Everyone needs to be working together as agents for social change, inclusive of children themselves.

Safeguarding children needs a stronger foundation and a louder defence which is why child empowerment must be included in your child safety blueprint. For children to know how to champion their own safety, body autonomy, boundary setting and rights to privacy need to be implemented into curriculums with confidence. Children to learn strategies to advocate their own self-worth and that of their peers. We need multiple means to afford children this right.

This new trajectory for how we approach the protection of children in education and care means we make explicit our Commitments to Child Safety, Codes of Conduct and the processes for acting inappropriately.

Asserting a Culture of Child Safety: Offering children the protection and care that they deserve is available through Amba Press.

Image by Anastasia Pavlova