Child Prtection. Safety First

Child safety needs to be at the heart of everything you do.

At least one staff member of the institution should be present with volunteers during the visit. It is also important that you know the people you are taking to the institution. Keep a track of your volunteer group when you visit, volunteers should stay together and not be left alone one on one with children.

Children in care come from various backgrounds but the vast majority have had pretty tough lives and this can affect their behaviour. They may be slow to trust volunteers and open up, or may show indiscriminate affection. Remember, a kid acting out it is nothing personal about you or your volunteers. Always be patient and refer any issues or concerns you have to the staff of the institution. Being organised with lots of small game ideas can help diffuse any problems before they arise. If the children are bored and acting out remember, this is your responsibility not theirs!

As the children get to know you, and see that you are coming to see them regularly they will grow to trust you. Be patient and keep all activities voluntary. Encourage kids to participate but don’t force them – allow them to come and go as they please. This allows kids who are getting stressed to step out to cool down, and in our experience voluntary activities are always better attended and enjoyed than obligatory ones.

Kids in care often do not get to make many decisions themselves so it is important that you ask kids their opinions in a structured way about what they would like to do from the visits. Listening to the kids, perhaps starting with a simple ten-minute fun questionnaire at the end of the first volunteer visit, also serves to increase their engagement.

Remember, the staff at the institution are experts in child welfare and know the kids well. If you are having any issues or have any concerns please raise them directly with the staff.

The key is to be patient. Seeing kids transform from shy and awkward to open and welcoming is one of the most rewarding parts of what you will do.