Every child has the right to a full and productive life. Under the national framework for Protecting Australia’s Children (2009), protecting children is everyone’s responsibility: Parents, communities, governments and businesses all have a role to play. Children’s services have an important part to play in protecting children who may be at risk of harm or illness. Educators have a duty of care to protect and preserve the safety, health and wellbeing of all children in their care and must always act in their best interests.
Policies have been developed at a local, state and federal level to provide a foundation for improving and maintaining the safety and wellbeing of Australia’s young people. The purpose of this report is to analyse six of these policies effectively fostering children’s wellness at a physical and emotional level. The policies have been sourced from, and are underpinned by the following policies and legislation: ? A local early childhood kindergarten and long day care centre service policies ? The Children, Youth and Families Act (2005) ?National framework for Protecting Australia’s Children (2009) ?
The Children’s Services Act (1996) ?Aboriginal Cultural Competence Framework (2008) Values that underpin these policies: Each of the six policies selected specifically addresses educator interest and is a key facet of the service, state and federal policy and legislation. Collectively the policies attend to and interpret issues of children’s safety, stability and development. In other words, when policy development was occurring due consideration and value was given to child safety, stability of relationships in a stable environment, child development, and child health and wellbeing.
These dimensions of safety, stability, development and wellbeing are understood in the context of whom the child is; that is their age and stage, identity and their culture. These elements concerning the identity of the child are fundamental to two of the six policies. The Aboriginal Cultural Competence Framework and ‘Day and Nights childcare and Kindergarten (DNCK)’ service Diversity and Equity policy reflect a strong sense of social justice, fairness and equity, and furthermore are free from prejudice.
They both value the child as a whole, advocating for all children’s rights. It is not a question of being ‘politically correct’ but rather respecting the unique identity of each and every child. Similarly part 1. 2- principles ‘The decision makers to have regard to principles’ of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005, place significant value to protecting and promoting the cultural and spiritual identity of children, and whenever possible, maintaining and building children’s connections to their family and community.
As advocated for in the ‘Early years Learning Framework’, knowing where and with whom you belong (identity, stability, and wellbeing) is integral to human existence (2009). Focusing more on children’s wellbeing, that is the child’s physical and emotional wellbeing, the DNCK ‘Child protection policy’ and the ‘Child protection policy’ sourced from Protecting the safety and wellbeing of children and young people, reinforce and emphasise that all children need stable, sensitive, simulating relationships and environments in order to reach their full potential.
The nucleus of both policies is the child and in order to see to the needs of the child each policy has placed a well-founded and substantial value on the role of educators, stating “the role of staff member in children’s services is to protect, nurture, recognise and support the needs of children in their care” (Protecting the safety and wellbeing of children and young people, 2010, p19). Educators have an ethical responsibility and a duty of care to see that this is done. Furthermore qualified teachers (Degree qualified or higher) are mandated, therefore are legally responsible for the care and protection of children within their care.
In addition to this, Part 4- Operation of children’s services of the Children’s Services Act 1996, places an emphasis on the protection of children from hazards within the service. Legislators again place value on the role of the educator, stating, quite strongly that “Staff members of a children’s service must ensure that every reasonable precaution is taken to protect a child…” (Children’s Services Act, 1996, p27) Though the previous two policies had provisions for the emotional wellbeing of the child, this policy places equal value to the physical wellbeing of the child.
What precipitated the development of the policy? Australia began to acknowledge the existence of child protection issues during the 1960’s, which led to legislative reform and Australia signing the ‘United Nations Declaration of the rights of the child’ in 1981 (McCallum, 2002). In recent years there has been an increased awareness of child protection emerging from increased incidents of child harm and abuse and intensified research. During this time, policy makers and service providers have developed a greater understanding of children’s needs and have come together to bring us our current policies.
Further investigation into the development of each of the six child safety/protection policies; found that they are manifestations of each other. For instance without the Children’s Services Act 1996 and the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005, the DNCK child protection policy would not have been developed as now services have a legal responsibility to have current and relevant policies within their service. Moreover without the Aboriginal Cultural Competence Framework the DNCK diversity and Equity policy would as not have been developed to such a high standard.
Who benefits/ who is disadvantaged? It is quite evident who is benefited from these policies. These mainstream children’s services approaches and policies emphasise children within a holistic and ecological framework. The holistic approach means looking at the whole child, that is, their identity, culture, community, age, development; all areas within the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. The holistic approach also implies that educators will have a community-focused and strength-based understanding of children’s welfare that necessitates previous attempts at early childhood education.
In addition to this with a greater understanding to the importance of culture to a child’s identity, the Aboriginal Cultural Competence Framework has provided a source where the dynamics of cultural connection can be explored. This benefits all children, including Aboriginal children and the broader community, as it represents children’s cultural needs in the following way. Children’s cultural needs are: Cultural Expression and Events Language, cultural values, lore, beliefs and practices Country Extended family, clan and community History.
Symbolic (Aboriginal Cultural Framework, 2008, p19) It is important to note that because of these six policies an increase of awareness of the needs of the child has been developed, and as such children have: ? Freedom from hunger and have protection from diseases ?The rights to an identity and to preserve such an identity ? The right to equal treatment regardless of gender, race or cultural background ? The right to safe exposure to leisure, play, culture and art ? Freedom from violence, abuse and neglect ?The rights to culturally competent practice
When asked if anyone would be disadvantaged by the implementation of these policies, the immediate response would have been no. Upon critical investigation, it was found that the educators themselves may feel disadvantaged. Though there is no provision for this within the policies, it is strongly implied that the implementation of each policy at a service level would need to be done by the children’s carers and educators. This may expand workloads, increase the need for professional development and training, and compel educators into uncomfortable situations (e.g. , having to call protective services on a family they like).
The applicability for rural setting Due to the nature of the six policies, regardless of where the service is, each would be applicable for a rural setting. All children’s services must comply with the Children’s Services Act 1996, and the Children’s Services Regulations. The primary objective of this legislation is that children are safe and that their developmental needs are met when being cared for and educated in a licensed children’s service.
The Act provides for the monitoring, licensing and regulation of children’s services in Victoria, where a licensee fails to meet their legislative obligations there a range of statutory actions that may be taken by the Department (DEECD, 2010). Encouragingly the Department has a number of initiatives to support children’s services meet the requirements of the Act and the Regulations. Small capital grants and resource kits are available to assist services. Furthermore professional development will soon be delivered across Victoria on the Early Years Framework.
Until the transition into the framework all children’s services will continue to be regulated by the Children’s Services Act and the Children’s Services Regulations (DEECD, 2010). Conclusion: Every child has the right to a full and productive life. The Aboriginal Cultural Framework, The service Diversity and Equity policy, The Children, Youth and Families Act, the service Child Protection Policy, the child protection policy sourced from Protecting the safety and Wellbeing of Children and Young People, and the Children’s Services Act, ensures that this will happen.
It has been identified that children’s services have an important part to play in protecting children who may be at risk of harm or illness. Under these frameworks, protection for children’s safety and wellbeing will one day become a natural procedure for educators. Key policy makers have attempted to make certain that educator’s roles and responsibilities are well defined ensuring that this may happen. Overall each of the six policies makes provisions for children’s welfare, children’s identity, children’s wellbeing, children’s safety, children’s culture and stability.
These are central concepts to Belonging, Being and Becoming, which will soon become the regulatory body for children’s services across Australia. References: •Murphy, M. (2011). Bacchus Marsh Childcare and Kindergarten service policies. Bacchus Marsh: Victoria. •Department of Education and Early Childhood Development & Department of human Services. (2010). Protecting the safety and wellbeing of children and young people. Melbourne. •Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. (2010). Publication of information. Fact sheet. Sourced 10/4/2011 www. education. vic. gov.
au/escmanagement/licensedchildservices •Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. (2010). Regulations update. Children’s Services. Issue 2. Sourced 10/4/2011 http://www/eduweb. vic. gov. au/edulibrary/public/earlychildhoodregulations/regupdateapril10. pdf •McCallum, F. (2002). Law, Policy, Practice: Is it working for teachers in child protection. University of South Australia •Victorian Government Department of Human Services. (2008). Aboriginal Cultural Competence Framework. Melbourne: Vic •Victorian Government. (2005). Children, Youth and Families Act 2005.