“Child protection on the mission field? I don’t understand…” This is a fairly common response from people back home when they ask what I do. Cath Swanson, AIM’s Child Safety Officer, explains more about her role.
So, what do I do? Well, just as most responsible churches back home have a designated safeguarding lead, so does AIM. My job is making sure that, as far as possible, AIM is a safe place for children. Our Child Safety policy is designed to do all we can to reduce risk to children – both missionaries’ children and local children. What risks? In fact, there are all kinds of reasons why missionaries’ children might be vulnerable in different ways from those back home. Far away from family, everyone becomes an auntie or uncle. Trust is easily built and bonds are deep. Children in new cultures are used to feeling uncomfortable so they lose touch with their innate sense that something might be happening to them that is wrong. Sadly, but unsurprisingly, the ubiquitous presence of internet pornography is something which is an increasing problem, and can be hard
The Child Safety and Protection Network
CSPN is a network of organisations who work together to develop and deliver child safety education and curriculum, share resources and develop effective response and care protocols..
Our aim is to create a transparent, accountable environment where we can know that our personnel are acting in a responsible and safe manner with all children, whether missionaries’ children or local children.
This means a robust screening process for all AIM applicants, a signed code of conduct for any teams, training and education at orientation with annual updates, and a prompt thorough response to any reports or concerns of harm to a child.
AIM is a member of the Child Safety and Protection Network, an umbrella organisation of almost 100 similar mission agencies and international schools. We work together to share resources and consult together on difficult issues.
Prevention is always better than cure. Just as when we know an unfamiliar place we are staying in has all the requisite fire safety regulations we can sleep peacefully at night, it is the same for AIM. When we have put in place all the elements that create safety, parents can have a high level of trust that their children are safe – whether that be at boarding school, in team situations and in ministry contexts.