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POLICY ON THE SAFEGUARDING OF CHILDREN

  1. PREAMBLE

the gravity of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors is, and historically has been, a widespread phenomenon in all cultures and societies . . .  Yet even today, the statistics available on the sexual abuse of minors drawn up by various national and international organizations and agencies do not represent the real extent of the phenomenon, which is often underestimated, mainly because many cases of the sexual abuse of minors go unreported . . .  Acts of violence take place not only in the home, but . . . sadly, also in church settings . . .  We are thus facing a universal problem, tragically present almost everywhere and affecting everyone.  Yet we need to be clear, that while gravely affecting our societies as a whole, this evil is in no way less monstrous when it takes place within the Church . . .  For this reason, the Church has now become increasingly aware of the need not only to curb the gravest cases of abuse by disciplinary measures and civil and canonical processes, but also to decisively confront the phenomenon both inside and outside the Church. She feels called to combat this evil that strikes at the very heart of her mission, which is to preach the Gospel to the little ones and to protect them from ravenous wolves.[1]

The Bryanston Catholic Church takes seriously its responsibility and obligations to safeguard children.  It is committed to practices that protect children from harm.  In recognition of these values and the global phenomenon at hand, the Bryanston Catholic Church has adopted this policy which sets out its commitment to actively participate:

  1. to create a safe environment in our church for children;
  2. to raise awareness on the evil of abuse and its far reaching effects on victims, their families, and the sufferings it causes to our community; and
  • to combat the evil of abuse.

Children should be encouraged and the environment made conducive for them to participate in the Parish by attending Mass, catechism classes, children’s liturgy of the word, and any activity in the Parish that is appropriate for them.  As Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them”.[2]

  1. DEFINITIONS

In this Policy, the following definitions apply: 

Abuse means physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse, neglect and failure to provide for the needs and safety of a child, exploitation and ill-treatment of a child. 

Adult means any person over the age of 18 years.

Applicable law shall mean the laws, statutes, regulations of the Republic of South Africa. 

Child means any person under the age of 18 years.

Emotional Abuse (verbal or psychological abuse) means acts or omissions that cause or could cause serious behavioural, cognitive, emotional or mental disorders, ill-treatment including verbal threats, threats of harm or abandonment, shouting, demeaning, humiliation, socially isolating a child, unreasonable and unjustified withdrawal of services or supportive networks, intimidation, exploitation, bullying, including cyber bullying, terrorizing or routinely making unreasonable demands on a child.

Exploitation means making unfair profit of, and/or taking advantage of unequal power and /or economic status of a child.

Neglect means failure by the child’s parent/s, legal guardian/s, caregiver/s to provide requisite attention to the child’s emotional, psychological, medical or physical needs including nutrition and heating when they have the means, knowledge and access to resources to do so, including failure to protect the child from exposure to danger.

Parish means the Bryanston Catholic Church situated at 18 Sloane Street, Bryanston, Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2191. 

Parish Community means Adults and Children who are registered with or regularly attend activities at the Parish.

Parish Contact Persons means identified members of the Parish who are the first point of contact for formally reporting incidents of abuse.

Personnel includes all adults who are employed by, are contracted with, or volunteer at the Parish, particularly those in a supervisory capacity or whose duties include contact with children at the Parish.

Physical Abuse means the deliberate application of force to any part of a child’s body, which results in or may result in harm or injury to the child.  Physical abuse may include shaking, choking, biting, kicking, burning, hitting, slapping, poisoning, holding a child under water, or any other harmful or dangerous use of force or restraint towards a child.

Respondent means a person against whom a compliant is brought.

Safeguarding means protecting a child / children’s right to protection from maltreatment, neglect, abuse and/or degradation.  It is the responsibility of the Parish community to work together and with the appropriate organizations and institutions to prevent the risk and experience of abuse.

Sexual Abuse means sexually abusing a child or allowing a child to be sexually abused by exploitation of a child for sexual purposes such as rape, indecent exposure, inappropriate looking and touching, sexual teasing or innuendo, fondling, intercourse, incest, sodomy, exhibitionism, prostitution, and the production of pornographic materials.  Sexual abuse may include but is not limited to permitting, encouraging, or requiring a child to engage in any of the following activities:

  1. using or engaging in sexually provocative language, acts or conduct towards a child;
  2. engaging in conduct which involves physical contact with a child which is sexual in nature.

Social Service Professional means a probation officer, development worker, child and youth care worker, youth worker, social auxiliary worker and social security worker who are registered as such in terms of the Social Service Professions Act, 1978 (Act 110 of 1978).

Social Worker means a person who is registered or deemed to be registered as a social

worker in terms of the Social Service Professions Act, 1978 (Act 110 of 1978).

Support Person means a social worker or social service professional who provides support to the complainant or victim in the processes and procedures relating to the reporting of an incident of abuse.

  1. POLICY STATEMENT

The Parish community is committed to:

  • the safeguarding of all children;
  • establishing a safe environment where there is informed vigilance and prevention of abuse;
  • open age appropriate communication and training on forms of abuse, symptoms, and codes of conduct in order to raise awareness of abuse;
  • carefully selecting all those who have responsibilities concerning children in the Parish;
  • equipping the Parish community and Personnel to be vigilant of incidents, suspicions or symptoms of abuse and their duty to report these;
  • referring to the appropriate authorities any member of Parish community who is a victim of abuse or a perpetrator;
  • adopting and implementing procedures on reporting abuse;
  • uprooting the culture of abuse;
  • endorsing the principles and articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, the Bill of Rights as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act No. 108 of 1996 (as amended), and the principles as set out in the Children’s Act, Act No. 38 of 2005 (as amended), as well as any other applicable law regarding the best interests of the child;
  • respecting the rights of children;
  • protecting children from all forms of abuse and violence; and
  • zero tolerance on any form of abuse of children.
  1. APPLICATION 

This Policy applies to all Personnel and the Parish community.

  1. PREVENTING HARM TO CHILDREN
  • CODE OF BEHAVIOUR
  • It is appropriate for all Personnel and the Parish community to:
  • treat all children with respect;
  • respect children’s boundaries;
  • empower children with age appropriate knowledge about their rights and the assistance available to them;
  • create an environment where concerns can be easily and safely raised and appropriately addressed;
  • raise awareness that explains acceptable and non-acceptable behavior of adults with children;
  • report incidents or suspicions of abuse within the procedures set out in this Policy;
  • adhere to the procedures in this Policy relating to the reporting of abuse; or
  • take appropriate steps to prevent any imminent harm/ danger or threat that a child is exposed to.
  • It is inappropriate for all Personnel and the Parish community to:
  • abuse or exploit a child or children;
  • spend time alone with a child or children on the Parish premises;
  • take children to their home where they will be alone with them;
  • invite to or have a child or children at their home for a sleep over;
  • exchange money, gifts or services for sex with a child or children;
  • physically abuse a child or children;
  • develop sexual relationships with a child or children;
  • develop an exploitative relationship with a child or children;
  • expose a child or children to the risk of abuse;
  • use language or make suggestions or offer advice which is offensive, abusive and inappropriate;
  • condone abusive behavior towards a child or children;
  • cover up and fail to report abuse;
  • degrade or humiliate a child or children;
  • kiss or engage in extended hugging of a child or children whilst they are responsible for them on behalf of the Parish;
  • place a child or children on the lap;
  • discipline a child or children using any form of physical contact, emotional or psychological pressure; or
  • discriminate against a child or children.

The above list is not exhaustive.

  • VETTING

The following guidelines shall be employed when recruiting or accepting adult volunteers as Personnel to work with children in the Parish:

  • The application form annexed hereto as Form 1 must be completed, signed and submitted by the person applying for vetting directly to the Vetting Agent;
  • National Registers for Child Molesters kept by the Department of Justice (Register for Sex Offenders) and the Department of Social Development (National Child Protection Register) must be consulted by the Vetting Agent;
  • The Vetting Agent must conduct the vetting process in a confidential manner and as such may only disclose the outcome of the vetting with the Parish Contact Person;
  • Until the vetting process has been completed, the vetting applicant may not directly interact with a child or children on behalf of the Parish unless under the supervision of an adult who has already been positively vetted in accordance with this clause 2;
  • All vetting applicants who are positively vetted and subsequently appointed or accepted as Personnel (“appointees”) must be given a copy of this Policy and must sign a declaration acknowledging receipt of a copy of the Policy and binding themselves to adhere to the Policy. All original signed declarations shall be kept in the Parish’s office or through an off-site document storage system;
  • All appointees will attend the Parish’s Parish Pastoral Council approved workshops, training sessions and awareness campaigns regarding safeguarding children before interacting with children at the Parish premises or on behalf of the Parish and at least once a year thereafter. Documented proof of attendance will be retained by the Parish in the same manner as set out in clause 2.5 above;
  • All appointees will be vetted annually after their appointment in accordance with this clause 2;
  • All transfers of clerics to the Parish will contain a form, duly completed, signed and approved by the Southern Africa Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC). All such transferees shall sign the declaration referred to in clause 2.5 above which shall also be retained by the Parish as provided for in clause 5.2.5 above; and
  • All expenses for the vetting process in accordance with this clause 2 shall be borne by the Parish.

 

  • SUPERVISION

The following guidelines must be observed in relation to Parish activities:

  • Written consent must be obtained from parent/s, legal guardian/s or caregivers to participate in Parish activities;
  • All Parish related activities, outings trips and the like that include children in the care of the Parish must be supervised by adults vetted in terms of clause 2 above;
  • Subject to the discretion of an adult on duty, female supervisors must be allocated to girl children and male supervisors to boy children, including supervision of the use of ablution facilities by children whilst they are responsible for them on behalf of the Parish. In amplification thereof, it shall be the responsibility of the parent/s, legal guardian/s or caregivers to supervise their children in general and their children’s use of ablution facilities when they have not formally placed their children in the care of the Parish in designated areas for catechism, children’s liturgy of the word or other specified activities and the like; and
  • No adult must at be left alone with a child whilst they are responsible for them on behalf of the Parish.
  1. TRAINING AND AWARENESS 
  • The Parish’s Parish Pastoral Council will approve workshops, training sessions and awareness campaigns regarding safeguarding children at least once a year for Personnel and children on, amongst other things, the types of abuse, symptoms of abuse and the manner in which to report abuse. Such training and education for children will be age appropriate.
  • The following documents and/or information and/or contact details shall be placed on the Parish notice board, its website – bryanstoncatholic.co.za – and shall be readily available in the Parish office:
  • a copy of the United Nations Charter on the Rights of the Child;
  • this Policy;
  • the full names and contact details of the Parish Contact Persons to whom abuse must be reported;
  • the name of the Diocesan Contact Person, to whom abuse by the clerics, whether past or present, may be reported; and
  • the full name and contact details of the Support Person.
  1. PROCEDURES FOR REPORTING ABUSE 
  • In the event of an incident of abuse, the victim or any other person with direct knowledge of the alleged abuse shall contact any one of the Parish Contact Persons.
  • The Parish Contact Person so contacted shall:
  • take note of the following when receiving a report of alleged child abuse or concern thereof:
  • child or children’s full name, address and telephone number (if the child or children have a telephone number of their own);
  • the child or children’s parent/s, legal guardian/s or caregiver’s or guardian’s full name, address and telephone numbers;
  • reasons for concern as provided by person reporting the concern if there is no allegation of actual abuse; and
  • a detailed account of the alleged abuse including but not limited to date, time, place, names and contact details of any potential witnesses;
  • as soon as is practically possible, but no later than forty-eight hours after being notified, report any incidents of alleged child abuse as defined in this Policy, to the South African Police Service (SAPS) with jurisdiction over the Parish. The Parish Contact Person shall endeavor to report any sexual offence to the SAPS immediately after receiving such report as required in terms of section 54(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, Act No. 32 of 2007;
  • recommend to the Parish Pastoral Council and to the Parish Priest that the Respondent be relieved, as a precautionary measure, from the exercise of any function or responsibility or ministry or volunteer service in the Parish and be placed on administrative leave, as the case may be, pending the outcome of the referral made in clause 7.2.2 above;
  • if the allegation/complaint concerns the sexual abuse of a child or children by a cleric, refer the matter as soon as is practically possible to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) for the canonical processes to be followed; and
  • in making the report and/or referral envisaged in clauses 2.2 to 7.2.4 above, the Parish Contact Persons shall note the following:
  • the name of the person who received the report and/or referral;
  • the case number as provided by the South African Police Service or reference number provided by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF);
  • the date and time of the report and/or referral; and
  • furnish the complainant and any affected persons with the Support Person’s contact details for appropriate counseling and support to be provided.
  • The Parish shall keep or cause to be kept in a confidential and secure manner clear and comprehensive records of all concerns and allegations in relation to safeguarding children. Where action is taken against an alleged perpetrator by the civil authorities or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the outcome of such action, once available, shall be kept with the records.  Such records shall be retained for an indefinite period of time.
  1. OBLIGATION OF THE PARISH WITH REGARDS TO INVESTIGATIONS 

Full cooperation shall be given by Parish and its Personnel for any investigations conducted by the civil authorities or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

  1. MEDIA ENQUIRIES 

Any media contact or inquiries regarding a report of child sexual abuse must be directed to the Parish Contact Persons. 

  1. IMPLEMENTATION
  • The Parish community shall be made aware of this Policy through electronic and / or written form.
  • This Policy will be reviewed annually and the responsible Parish Safeguarding Children Task Team will encourage the participation of the community in the review.

ADOPTED BY THE PARISH’S PARISH PASTORAL COUNCIL AT BRYANSTON ON THIS ……… DAY OF ……………………. 2019.

SIGNED BY:

PARISH CONTACT PERSON: ___________________________________

DATE:__________________________

PLACE:_________________________

 

PARISH CONTACT PERSON: ___________________________________

DATE:__________________________

PLACE:_________________________

 

ARCHBISHOP FOR THE DIOCESE OF JOHANNESBURG: ______________________________

DATE: ___________________________

PLACE:_________________________

[1]   Address of His Holiness Pope Francis at the end of the Eucharistic Concelebration at the meeting on “the protection of minors in the church”, Vatican’s New Synod Hall, Sunday 24 February 2019.

[2]    Matthew 19:14