The safety and wellbeing of children and young people is central to Ardoch’s work, and a responsibility we take seriously. To ensure we have the best possible protection and harm prevention strategies in place, Ardoch recently undertook the additional step to gain Child Wise accreditation.
Child Wise is a leading child safety organisation and the first Australian organisation to develop safeguarding standards as a framework to protect children. These standards include transforming systems to keep children and young people safe from harm and ensuring children and young people have a voice in matters that affect them.
Taking the lead in the accreditation process has been Ardoch’s Programs Manager, Volunteer Programs, Lachlan Preston, who shares with us the steps taken to meet Child Wise’s high standards.
What was the motivation behind seeking Child Wise accreditation?
In late 2019, the Ardoch board and leadership decided to engage Child Wise to undertake a review of Ardoch’s child safety practices. This was a proactive move to ensure we continue to improve in relation to child safety. This has always been a key priority for Ardoch and given that Child Wise are seen as the experts in this field they were the ideal partner for this project.
The primary motivation was improvement, rather than accreditation. Working towards accreditation though, was a great way to benchmark our work and be independently verified as being a child safe organisation.
How hard is it to gain accreditation?
To be accredited, all the Child Safe Standards have been assessed as embedded. This means that Child Wise can see evidence of the Child Safe Standards in policy, practice, systems, and organisational culture. Following the initial review completed in early 2020, Child Wise delivered a report with recommendations for ways Ardoch could improve its practice regarding child safety.
While Ardoch already had lots of strategies in place, in some areas there was lots of work to do. In late 2021 we provided Child Wise with a portfolio of evidence of how we had progressed, where we were continuing to work, and how we were addressing each of the Child Safe Standards. Child Wise also undertook focus groups and interviews with staff, volunteers, board members and partner school staff to assess our progress.
What extra steps did you have to take to gain accreditation?
There were several areas where Ardoch had to take larger steps to be accredited. A key one of these was around child and youth participation and engagement. Although our programs work with young people, Ardoch partners – and was predominantly working directly – with schools, meaning we had a lot of work to do about bringing youth voices more into our organisation. We will be piloting a Youth Advisory Group over the coming months as one part of our efforts in this area.
Internally, we developed a Child Safety Champions group, who are championing child safety within their teams, but also helping Ardoch improve collectively.
What does this mean for Ardoch?
Being accredited by Child Wise is a great recognition of the hard work done by Ardoch volunteers, board members and employees to keep children safe during our programs. While we have always made child safety a priority, being reviewed by an independent organisation helps give us and the schools, early years centres, families, children, and communities we work with greater confidence in our processes and practices. It doesn’t mean a stop to the work though, there is always more that can be done to continue making the organisation even safer for children.
What are the next steps?
Whilst we completed many of the recommendations from the initial Child Wise review, there are still several areas for us to continue building further, such as in child and youth participation. There is also a new Victorian child safe standard relating to Aboriginal cultural safety that is a current focus.
We have been fortunate to receive funding from the Winifred & John Webster Charitable Trust Fund as part of the recent Perpetual funding round for a project focused on further building our child safety practices, including child empowerment/participation, upholding equity/diversity and creating culturally safe environments for Aboriginal children.
Ardoch has been accredited at the bronze level. By the time of reaccreditation in three years, we hope to be able to progress to a higher level, but the most important thing is the real changes being made in our daily operations supporting stronger outcomes for children and young people.