How BTO’s Child Protection Committee is Keeping Kids Safe during COVID-19

Beyond the Orphanage

At the very core of Beyond the Orphanage is a mission to protect the safety of children. For thirteen years we have been committed to finding better ways to provide at-risk, orphaned and abandoned children with the love, care and support they need to thrive.

We’re also deeply committed to a capacity-building centred model of development. This best-practice model empowers local not for profits and organisations to deliver culturally appropriate services and care to the children they support, while also creating opportunities for employment and skill development for our partners.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop, our in-country partners have needed to adapt to new and emerging threats to child safety. To help our partners respond, BTO’s dedicated  Child Protection Committee has been providing additional support and guidance thanks to the support of our community and the COVID-19 emergency appeal.

The Role of the Child Protection Advisory Committee

BTO’s Child Protection Advisory Committee assures that our child protection policy is consistent with child welfare laws in both Australia and the United States. As a condition of funding our partners must agree to adopt and adhere to this policy, ensuring that the children in BTO’s care have the best protection possible.

In line with our commitment to partner capacity building, we provide our partners with child protection training across a variety of environments and practice models, to ensure our programs are capable of adhering to the policy and implementing it successfully. 

We know that accessible support is key to successful child protection, and our Child Protection Committee is on hand to respond to questions from the program partners on how best to achieve child safety and child protection, whether those questions relate to program philosophy, staff, site-specific concerns relating to facility security, among others. There is also a designated member of the committee who serves as the point of contact for immediate reporting of any incident involving harm to a child in their care, or an alleged breach of BTO’s child protection policy. 

Child Protection during COVID-19

Ray Kirk is the Chairman of the Board for Beyond the Orphanage US and a member of the committee. Discussing why in these times of COVID-19, having the committee is critical to keeping kids safe, Ray illustrates the increasingly complex environment our partners are working in.

“Members of the committee can convene electronically from around the globe to discuss issues and offer advice and resources to partners who may be struggling to maintain conditions of child safety and child protection due to those unusual circumstances. At no time has this been more apparent than during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“How can a program assure that the children are safe when the program is on lockdown with an incomplete complement of staff?  How are staff to assure child safety and well-being under frightening circumstances when we know that the children have all experienced serious childhood trauma and may exhibit unusual reactive behaviours? 

“How can child safety remain the chief priority of the program during periods of civil unrest and lack of basic necessities such as food and medicine? How can program staff continue to monitor home placements and assure child safety in those placements when program staff are prohibited from travelling by civil order?

Members of the committee are available to respond thoughtfully to these questions and to address these issues, even while the staff and the children may be under tremendous stress.” 

During this time the Child Protection Committee has been key in advising and responding to the challenges our partners are facing. It is also playing a key role in determining how and where emergency funds are distributed to ensure BTO partners and the children in their care are getting food, medicine and have safe shelter. 

There is no line item in BTO’s budget titled “pandemic emergency funding.” Yet the committee convened and advised BTO’s Board of Directors to immediately implement an effort to raise emergency funding in response to this pandemic.” Ray says.

The resulting COVID-19 Emergency Appeal is ongoing, and funds are being distributed to the programs with appropriate agreements on how the funds will be used to support child safety and child protection. 

As Ray explains, “there are few things that increase the risk of children’s safety and the ability of their caregivers to protect them, than the disruption of placement, the dissolution of the family, or becoming homeless. 

“Supporting our programs on an emergency basis to stabilize home placements and families under the conditions of the pandemic is exceedingly important to promoting their safety and protection.”

Without the generous and ongoing support of our community, our COVID-19 response would not be possible. 

But the fight is not over yet, and the BTO Child Protection Committee is preparing for increasing challenges for our partners as the long term impact of the global pandemic on the worlds most vulnerable populations continue to emerge.

May 25, 2020

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