Child abuse and neglect are concerns throughout the world. Child abuse and neglect are violations of a child’s human rights and are obstacles to the child’s education as well as to their physical, emotional, and spiritual development.
Schools fill a special institutional role in society as protectors of children. Schools need to ensure that all children in their care are afforded a safe and secure environment in which to grow and develop, both at school and away. Educators and other adults working in schools, having the opportunity to observe and interact with children over time, are in a unique position to identify children who are in need of help and protection. As such, they have a professional and ethical obligation to identify children who are in need of help and protection and to take steps to ensure that the child and family avail themselves of the services needed to remedy any situation that constitutes child abuse or neglect.
UWC Thailand has as its mission the cultivation of a good heart, a balanced mind, and a healthy body for every student. In order to help fulfill this mission, UWC Thailand works assiduously to create a safe and protected environment in which children can grow and learn. Part of our work to create and ensure this safe environment is the implementation of a Child Safeguarding Policy. While we recognize that prevention is always preferable, we understand that we cannot control what may have occurred or what may occur in a child’s life outside the school community. As such, we need to be adroitly aware of any signs of abuse or neglect, and act ethically and compassionately to protect the children in our care.
All staff employed at UWC Thailand are mandated reporters1, and must report suspected incidents of child abuse or neglect whenever the staff member has reasonable cause to believe that a child has suffered, or is at significant risk of suffering abuse or neglect. Reporting and follow up of all suspected incidents of child abuse or neglect will proceed in accordance with administrative regulations respective to this policy.
Furthermore, cases of suspected child abuse or neglect may be reported to the appropriate employer, to the respective consulate in Phuket or Bangkok, Thailand, to the appropriate child protection agency in the home country, and/or to local authorities.
UWC Thailand seeks to be a safe haven for students who may be experiencing abuse or neglect in any aspect of their lives. As such, UWC Thailand will distribute this policy annually to all parents and applicants, will communicate this policy annually to students, will provide training for all staff, will make every effort to implement hiring practices to ensure the safety of children, and will review the policy annually for compliance and effectiveness.
In the case of a staff member reported as an alleged offender, UWC Thailand will conduct a full investigation following a carefully designed course of due process, keeping the safety of the child as the highest priority.
UWC Thailand endorses the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has informed this document. We have also taken guidance from the Thailand Child Protection Act, 2003, Association of International Schools in Africa Child Protection Handbook, 3rd Edition, from UNICEF document Child Protection in Educational Settings – Findings from Six Countries in East Asia and the Pacific, 2012, from Working Together to Safeguard Children, 2013, HM Government, UK, from the SAFE Network, 2012, UK, from the Cambridge International School, UK, CIS International Task Force on Child Protection (ITFCP), and from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, USA.
Child Abuse – Child abuse is a serious and complex problem that may occur in the lives of children and young people. It often occurs in environments that are isolated and stressful and affects those who are most vulnerable.Child abuse is the term used to describe different types of maltreatment suffered by a child or young person. It can be non-accidental physical injury, neglect, trauma, sexual abuse and emotional abuse, including psychological harm of children and young people, and requires different and specialised responses.In its most serious forms, abuse can lead to death or long-term harm to the physical or emotional well being of a child or young person.There are five main areas of Child Abuse. It should be recognised that any signs of abuse may also be symptomatic of other problems.
Physical abuse may involve hitting, punching, shaking, throwing, poisoning, biting, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating or otherwise causing intentional physical harm to a child. (These symptoms could also indicate harm to self, such as cutting and suicide ideation).Some signs or symptoms that may indicate physical abuse –
- Bruises, burns, sprains, dislocations, bites, cuts
- Improbable excuses given to explain injuries
- Injuries which have not received medical attention
- Injuries that occur to the body in places that are not normally exposed to falls, rough games, etc.
- Repeated urinary infections or unexplained stomach pains
- 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
- Being aggressive towards others
- Being very passive and compliant
- Chronic running away.
Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional ill treatment of a child so as to cause severe and adverse effects on a child’s emotional development. It may involve: conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved; that they are inadequate or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person; age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children; causing children frequently to feel frightened; or the exploitation or corruption of children. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of ill-treatment of a child, though it may also occur alone.Some signs or symptoms that may indicate 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
- Obsessions or phobias
- Sudden under-achievement or lack of concentration
- Attention-seeking behaviour
- Persistent tiredness
Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative (i.e. rape) or non-penetrative acts. They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in the production or viewing of pornographic material or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways. Children involved in commercial sex work are victims of sexual abuse, whether they perceive themselves as victims or not.
Some signs or symptoms that may indicate sexual abuse (Please note that frequently there are no signs of this type of abuse) –
- Pain or irritation to the genital area
- Vaginal or penile discharge
- Difficulty with urination
- Infection, bleeding
- Fear of people or places
- Regressive behaviours, bed wetting or stranger anxiety
- Excessive masturbation
- Sexually provocative
- Stomach pains or discomfort walking or sitting
- Being unusually quiet and withdrawn or unusually aggressive
- Suffering from what seem physical ailments that can’t be explained medically
- Showing fear or distrust of a particular adult
- Mentioning receiving special attention from an adult or a new “secret” friendship with an adult or young person
- Refusal to continue with school or usual social activities
- Age inappropriate sexualised behaviour or language
Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical or physiological needs, likely to result in serious impairment of the child’s health or development. Some signs or symptoms that may indicate neglect –
- Medical needs unattended
- Lack of supervision
- Consistent hunger
- Inappropriate dress
- Poor hygiene
- Inadequate nutrition
- Fatigue or listlessness
- Extreme loneliness
- Extreme need for affection
- Failure to grow
- Poor personal hygiene
- Frequent lateness or non-attendance at school
- Low self-esteem
- Poor social relationships
- Compulsive stealing
- Drug or alcohol abuse
Trauma Childhood traumatic stress is the psychological and biological responses resulting from a child’s inability to cope with an overwhelming situation. These overwhelming experiences are referred to as traumatic events or trauma. Children can be exposed to trauma in a number of ways. Acute trauma is a short-lived experience tied to a particular place or time. Children also may experience chronic trauma, or prolonged exposure over a long period or time to traumatic situations.Children lacking the ability to adapt and handle traumatic events may display the following symptoms:Preschool Children
- Feel helpless and uncertain
- Fear of being separated from their parent/caregiver
- Cry and/or scream a lot
- Eat poorly and lose weight
- Return to bedwetting
- Return to using baby milk
- Develop new fears
- Have nightmares
- Recreate the trauma through play
- Are not developing to the next growth stage
- Have changes in behaviour
- Ask questions about death
- Become anxious and fearful
- Worry about their own or others’ safety
- Become clingy with a teacher or parent
- Feel guilt or shame
- Tell others about the traumatic event again and again
- Become upset if they get a small bump or bruise
- Have a hard time concentrating
- Have fears that the event will happen again
- Have difficulty sleeping
- Show changes in school performance
- Become easily startled
- Feel depressed and alone
- Discuss the traumatic events in detail
- Develop eating disorders and self-harming behaviours such as cutting
- Start using or abusing alcohol or drugs
- Become sexually active
- Feel like they are going crazy
- Feel different from everyone else
- Take too many risks
- Have sleep disturbances
- Don’t want to go to places that remind them of the event
- Say they have no feeling about the event
- Show changes in behaviour
“School personnel are particularly well-placed to observe the outward signs of abuse and the unexplained changes in behaviour or performance which may indicate abuse.” (UK DES Circular 4/88)
Protecting the welfare of children is the role of every adult who interacts with children at UWC Thailand. This includes all adults knowing how to respond to suspected cases of child abuse and neglect and the process for reporting suspected cases to the relevant persons.
Safe Recruitment – UWC Thailand is committed to safe recruitment. The Human Resources Department follows rigorous procedures for the appointment of all members of staff.
Staff Training – UWC Thailand is committed to maintaining and increasing staff awareness of how to prevent, recognise and respond to child abuse and neglect. The school ensures that all staff are updated annually on procedures relating to child abuse and neglect. As part of their induction, all adults will familiarise themselves with the UWC Thailand Child protection policy and will be encouraged to read additional resource material.
A further commitment is training senior leaders on a regular basis to ensure that they are up to date with the details of this policy and the related procedures. It is their responsibility to continue to review the details of this policy to ensure it meets the needs of the students under their care.
Procedure in case of disclosure of abuse, or suspected abuse
If staff suspect a child has been abused or neglected, the following procedures should be implemented:
5.1a Immediately and no less than 24 hours after a disclosure, inform our Designated Child Safeguarding Leads: the School Counselors (Kru Len or Kru Kelsey) and the Head of School (Khun Lural). If a School Counselor is available and has been informed, make the report to the Head of School together with a Counselor. It is however not sufficient to inform only a School Counselor.
5.1b A record of the disclosure must be submitted through CPOMS including date and time and what the child said. This must be passed on to a School Counselor, or the Head of School if a School Counselor is unavailable. All staff involved in a disclosure or concern must keep written notes with time and date.
5.1c If a child has made an allegation involving a member of staff, the Head of School must be informed immediately. If the allegation is against the Head of School, the Board Chair must be informed immediately.
5.1d If the child is considered to be in immediate danger, or there is concern further harm may occur, the Head of School must be informed immediately. The Head of School shall inform the Chair of the School Board.
UWC Thailand staff will be required to record observations on CPOMS.
If there are obvious signs of harm the student will be taken to the School Clinic immediately. If we suspect that an employed or voluntary worker in the school has abused a child we will report the matter promptly to the Head of School.
Emergency – First aid is to be given as in any emergency. Follow-up care and counselling will commence as soon as practical.
UWC THAILAND IS COMMITTED TO KEEPING OUR COMMUNITY SAFE.
Reporting via UWC International
If an individual is not directly affiliated with UWC Thailand or prefers to speak to another UWC entity about an experience of sexual misconduct, harm, abuse or neglect, reporting mechanisms provided by UWC International can be used including:
- Contacting the Safeguarding Officer of UWC International via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Using the UWC Safeguarding Support Online Platform
- Using the UWC Safeguarding Support Phone Line
More information about the reporting mechanisms from UWC International can be found on its website here.