Child protection policy
The organization is committed to upholding the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which clearly states that children have the right to protection from abuse, neglect and exploitation. Plan International is committed to actively preventing child abuse.
Action to protect children
As an international child-centred development organization, committed to the wellbeing of children and to supporting the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Plan International Canada does not tolerate child abuse. Children are at the heart of everything that Plan International does, which is why we take the issue of child protection very seriously. Child protection is the term we use to describe the responsibilities and activities we undertake to prevent or stop children being abused or ill-treated. A reality of life is that children are potentially at risk from abuse or exploitation by some adults and other children and this threat exists throughout the world. Although it is a very small minority that present this risk, everyone has a responsibility and role in protecting children and following all practical and reasonable steps to counteract the risk.
Plan International exists to help children, which is why we have policies and systems in place so that abuse is not perpetrated or compounded by those that Plan International puts in contact with children and in whom children place their trust. These measures also protect sponsors from actions that could be misconstrued and lead to false accusations.
When anyone affiliated with Plan International, including sponsors, go against Plan International’s child protection policy, we may end their sponsorship and take follow-up action with other external agencies where appropriate.
In most cases, the incidents are due to a lack of awareness rather than harmful intent. However, Plan International thoroughly investigates every case by contacting the child and their family, Plan International colleagues in-country and the sponsor or person involved.
All concerns raised under our child protection policy will be dealt with promptly and will be treated seriously and sensitively. Your concerns will be discussed with you in order to help determine the precise action to be taken.
Whenever possible, resolution will be reached and the outcome known within 30 days of raising the concern. You will be informed of the action taken and the outcome.
Plan International Canada employees, contractors, interns and volunteers
Any organization working with children must be vigilant in the recruitment and selection of employees and volunteers. Plan International Canada’s recruitment processes include procedures to deter and prevent potential child abusers from entering the organization. All employees, volunteers, interns and contractors must follow the same screening as it relates to Child Protection.
- All employees, contractors, interns and volunteers must provide a satisfactory police background clearance to work with us. They must also be trained in child protection.
It is mandatory for employees, contractors, interns and volunteers to report any witnessed, suspected or alleged incident of child abuse or violation of the child protection policy.
Plan International Canada sponsors
Sponsorship is a wonderful opportunity to share our work through the eyes of a particular child and his or her family, and strong friendships often develop. However, it is important that participating in sponsorship does not put a child at risk. All sponsors, on initial contact, will receive in writing an explanation of our child protection policy and procedures as relevant to them.
Plan International Canada reserves the right to request that a donor undergo a police check at any point. Plan International Canada also reserves the right to decline a new sponsorship or bring an existing sponsorship to a close, and in making this decision we will err on the side of caution in the best interests of children.
Employees are trained to look for indications that a donor may pose a threat to a child’s well-being, whether at the sign-up stage or at any point throughout the sponsorship.
All communications (verbal, written or visual) from donors to sponsored children are screened to intercept inappropriate material. Written or visual communications are reviewed by individuals who are specially trained for this task. Any conversation or item that raises a concern is brought forwarded to the Child Protection Officer, who decides whether there is a need to contact the donor. No questionable letter or picture will be sent to a sponsored child without first reviewing it with the Child Protection Officer. If a phone call with the donor does not satisfy the concern, the matter is then handled according to the reporting procedures. Where the donor writes in the child’s local language that cannot be screened by someone at Plan International Canada, this is clearly marked and the Field Office asked to check the content.
When children leave the sponsorship program some donors naturally are keen to stay in touch. This will be facilitated only after the review and approval of the Child Protection Officer at the Canadian National Office. The Child Protection Officer must ensure that the child and their parents have given their express consent and that the Child Protection Focal Point in the child’s home country has approved the request.
Use of Child Images and Personal Information
Photographs of sponsored children may be used only with the express permission of Plan International Canada, and only in accordance with this policy.
Personal or physical information that could be used to identify the location of a child should not be used on a website or published in the public domain. The child’s last name or community name should be used only with the express permission of Plan International Canada.
Special care must be taken with presentations of vulnerable children (e.g. orphans, homeless children, children with disabilities, or children living in war zones and emergency situations). If photos or footage of these children are to be used, they must not be identified by their vulnerable status. If their life stories are to be used for promotional or media purposes, we must ensure that no information is provided that would make it possible for the child to be located.
Photographs and images of children should be decent and respectful, and not present children as victims. Images should not depict children in a vulnerable or submissive manner. Children should be fully clothed in images taken of them, and not in poses that could be interpreted as sexually suggestive.
When images are sent electronically, they must be protected with a password.
Images that are the property of Plan International may be used only for the purpose for which permission was granted, and only with signed approval of the final proof.
Plan Internationalencourages and arranges visits by sponsors to their sponsored child and family in their communities. In addition Plan International associates, such as contractors and volunteers, occasionally visit the field in program countries as part of their work. Our Visit Policy includes the following safeguards:
- All visits must be arranged in advance through Plan International Canada. Visitors must provide their request at least ten weeks in advance of a proposed visitation date.
- If visitors arrive a Plan International office in a program country without prior notification from Plan International Canada, field staff reserve the right to refuse the visit.
- Satisfactory clearance of a police records check (including vulnerable sector check) is required before each visit, even if the individual has visited a Plan International program area before. If the visitor’s country of residence is not Canada, or if he or she has lived for significant periods of his or her adult life outside of Canada, a police records check is also required in those countries where it is possible and permitted by law. If it is not possible to complete a police records check from a foreign country, the visitor will be required to complete a self-declaration. If the visitor is an employee, volunteer, intern or contractor, the police records check conducted for employment/volunteer/contract purposes will serve the purpose for the trip. Visitors are responsible for paying the fee required to complete the checks.
- Results of the police records check should be sent to the Human Resources department for review and visit approval.
Only the Human Resources department staff and the President & CEO will have access to the reports produced as a result of police checks. In the absence of the President & CEO, a senior management designate will have access to the reports.
The records will be stored in a secure location and will be protected with the security measures that safeguard other confidential files.
- Visitors will be asked to show photo ID (e.g. passport) at the Plan International field office to verify their identity.
- Plan International staff must be present throughout each visit to a sponsored child or to a Plan International community. In many Plan International communities, the threat of child abduction is very real, and families expect any visitors to be accompanied by Plan International staff. Visitors on their own create alarm within the community and raise concerns about their motivations.
- Children must not be invited or taken away from their communities, even for a short outing. Meeting visitors from overseas can be overwhelming for a child. They need the safety and security of familiar surroundings, like their parents and community, close at hand.
- Visitors must not invite children to visit them in their own country. Plan International will take no part in supporting or arranging such a visit.
- Visitors and the children/families in the Plan International country must not exchange mailing addresses during visits.
- Visitors must not discuss, offer or agree to the provision of additional and/or direct financial support to the children or families.
- Visitors must ask before taking photographs or video or film footage of children, families or communities. Photographs taken are understood to be for the visitors’ own use, and must not be published on the Internet or through any other medium without the express written permission of Plan International Canada. (See the Guidelines and Acknowledgement Form for Use of Child Images and/or Child Information.)
- Visitors should realize that they are subject to the laws of the country they are visiting, and conduct themselves accordingly.
- Visitors are advised to obtain insurance for their travel, and ensure they have obtained the proper immunization before departure.
- Visitors must contact Plan International Canada as soon as possible if they need to cancel the visit.
- Donors visiting their sponsored child must make arrangements for their own accommodation, and must meet those costs. In addition, there may be additional costs associated with the visit (e.g. for a translator). They must also arrange their own travel to and from Plan International’s local field office.
- After every donor visit, a report is sent to Canada from Plan International staff in the country visited. All visits are monitored.
- Careful attention is paid to repeat visitors, especially if a donor requests a visit to their sponsored child with some frequency.
- Visitors acknowledge that travel to other countries involves risk and hazards and the possibility of personal injury and loss of property. Visitors agree to take all steps necessary to protect their own health and property and those of others involved in the visit. Visitors assume all risks associated with the preparation for and travel to and in the other country in order to complete the visit to the children and families.
- Visitors, by signing a declaration, agree to release and indemnify Plan International from any liability arising in connection with the visit, including injuries to the visitor’s person or property or the person or property of any other visitor.
- Visitors must sign a declaration to demonstrate that they understand and agree to abide by this Visit Policy.
Visits of children
Plan International’s child centred community development approach encourages children’s participation in their own development. Plan International Canada promotes the meaningful and ethical participation of children in decisions that affect them based on their evolving capacities in order to assist them to realize their rights. As part of this work, Plan International Canada may sometimes arrange for children from program countries to come to Canada to help build understanding by sharing true stories first hand.
Also, Plan International Canada may sometimes arrange for Canadian youth to travel as part of its Youth Action Council (YAC) activities. The YAC provides young Canadians aged 14 to 22 with the opportunity to learn about, and become advocates for, child rights as well as promote international development issues.
The following measures are taken for such visits:
- Parental consent for the visit, including emergency details, must be given and documented
- Children are asked to sign a visit agreement that outlines their rights and responsibilities
- Children are accompanied at all times during the visit by an adult chaperone, usually a Plan International staff member
- Chaperones are briefed on Plan International Canada’s child protection measures and sign an agreement to demonstrate they understand these measures and their responsibilities
- Accommodation is appropriate to the age and gender of the visiting children.
For more information
If you have questions or concerns about child protection at Plan International Canada, email our Child Protection Officer at email@example.com or call 1-800-387-1418 ext. 201.