ALLEF child protection policy
The purpose of ALLEF is to facilitate language exchanges between children aged 9-13, living in France and Germany. ALLEF recognises that children placed with another family in another country are potentially vulnerable and therefore there is a need to have procedures for dealing with issues of concern and abuse that come to its attention at any time.
The key documents supporting this policy are ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ (July 2015) and ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ (March 2015).
The purpose of this policy is to set out steps that ALLEF takes to identify abuse and neglect, and if it is identified, report it to the statutory authorities and do everything possible to remove children from an unsafe situation.
The definition of abuse ALLEF uses is ‘maltreatment of a child, through abuse of neglect, by inflicting harm or failing to prevent harm. Abuse may be caused by one or more adults, and/or one or more children. The definition of abuse ALLEF uses is ‘persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, in a way likely to result in the serious impairment of a child’s health or development.’
ALLEF does not work directly with children. It works with families, so children are with their families (or exchange (foster) families) at all points in the process. Therefore this policy focuses on information provided by parents and foster parents, observations by ALLEF volunteers, or disclosures made by children through written means, or through conversations observed by ALLEF volunteers.
ALLEF acknowledges that the welfare of the child is paramount. It will not match children and families for an exchange where it does not believe this is in the best interests of a child.
No child or group of children will be treated any less favourably than others in being able to access ALLEF’s services. ALLEF is happy to consider applications from children of any cultural or religious background, and from children with disabilities.
All children without exception have the right to protection from abuse regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexuality or beliefs.
Geographic application of this policy
ALLEF arranges exchanges with German and French families using linked organisations ‘3ELF’ and ‘ALLEF Deutschland e.v’. This child protection policy applies to all information provided by English families, anything that might indicate all is not well when a British child is overseas, and to French and German children when they are placed with an exchange family in England. The French and German organisations have their own procedures for reporting any matters of concern relating to applications from French and German families to the relevant authorities in each country.
ALLEF’s policy is broken down into the following sections
a) Suitability of volunteers
b) Training of volunteers
c) Procedures to ensure English exchange families provide a safe and suitable exchange environment
d) Procedures to secure the well-being of French and German exchange children when they are in England
e) Procedures to ensure there are sufficient safeguards to secure the well-being of English children when they are overseas in France or Germany
f) Reporting concerns
Suitability of volunteers
ALLEF is run on a voluntary basis – no volunteer is employed, or otherwise remunerated.
ALLEF cannot undertake DBS checks as it does not provide care. However, we endeavour to ensure volunteers are DBS checked by virtue of their professional or other voluntary work. ALLEF can only obtain checks at the basic level because volunteers do not work directly with children. All volunteers are required to declare as soon as anything arises which has caused them to be suspended from a post working with children, or for a reference to be made to the Disclosure and Barring Service.
Training of volunteers
All volunteers confirm annually that they have read the latest version of ‘Working Together’ which sets out procedures for handling reports of abuse. They must confirm that they have received child protection training within the past 3 years, either through their profession (teacher etc) or using the NSPCC online training. Volunteers make an annual declaration that they have completed appropriate training.
Procedures to ensure English exchange families provide a safe and suitable exchange environment
Exchange families have to complete a lengthy dossier which covers information about the family and extended family, family history, family life, the character and interests of the exchange child, and the house and area in which they live. It asks for any criminal convictions or child protection issues to be disclosed. The family must submit the last 2 years of school reports, photographs of the family and house, and two referees. A trained ALLEF coordinator visits the family home to ensure that information on the application form is accurate, and to meet the whole family and anyone else living in the house. ALLEF takes up references from referees and the school.
The dossier is read by two English volunteers, and by French and German coordinators. Any inconsistencies, or incomplete information, is followed up and further information will be requested depending on the circumstances of individual children and their families.
The family are invited for interview, and to meet other exchange families. The interview is wide ranging and will cover all aspects of the dossier and will include an interview of the child alone to ascertain their wishes and feelings about participating in the exchange. Any areas sensitive for matching will be probed – religious, dietary, medical and cultural requirements, for example.
The family will only be put forward for an exchange if ALLEF believes they provide a safe environment for receiving an exchange child, and also that their child is well prepared and suitable for an exchange.
Prospective exchange families must visit each other before an exchange is agreed – they must have confidence in the exchange family, as it is parents, not ALLEF, who make the decision to go ahead with the exchange.
Procedures to secure the well-being of French and German exchange children when they are in England
An ALLEF exchange is, in law, a private fostering arrangement. ALLEF notifies the relevant local authorities that the exchange is taking place. Each has different procedures for monitoring the exchange, but one common factor is that all the adults in the household will receive a high-level DBS check to ensure they are ‘suitable’ to receive an exchange child.
All exchange children speak to their parents once a week, in private. They are also provided with two stamped addressed envelopes that can be used as ‘parachute letters’ in the event they need to report they feel unsafe.
The ALLEF coordinators will call the hosting family and exchange child at various points during the exchange, the frequency will depend on the speed with which the child settles in. If any issues arise the French of German coordinator may discuss them with the child and French or German family, to reduce the risk of misunderstandings due to translation error. If the matter is of a child protection nature they will immediately alert the relevant English coordinator who will immediately report the concern to the duty social worker in the relevant local authority. The French/German families will be kept fully informed of what is going on by native speakers, with the ALLEF coordinators in each country working together to provide a full and accurate flow on information. If a child needs to be removed from a family the coordinators across each country will work together to provide the quickest solution – parents may be able to travel to England within a few hours, or the child could temporarily be looked after by a coordinator. The coordinators would always work closely with social services or the equivalent authorities in France and Germany.
Procedures to ensure there are sufficient safeguards to secure the well-being of English children when they are overseas in France or Germany
The French and German organisations use the same procedures as ALLEF for assessing the suitability of families and children for exchanges. In addition they ask for references from the school, as there are no private fostering procedures in those countries. The French and German organisations carry out police checks on all the adults in exchange families hosting English children.
The same procedures described for French and German children in England apply to English children in exchange families in France and Germany. If French and German coordinators become aware of abuse, or potential abuse, this would immediately be reported to the relevant authorities, and to the parents of the exchange child. The coordinators would work with parents to identify the best approach to keeping the child safe and would be available to take the child to safety if necessary.
From time to time issues arise because cultural norms vary between England, France and Germany, For example, it is usual for young children to travel to school unaccompanied in France and Germany, and for children to be left alone at home without an adult present from a younger age than would be normal in England. These issues are covered by the application form, so exchange families understand the cultural norms applying in each country, to ensure they are content for their children to operate within a different frame of reference.
If any child or adult makes a disclosure of abuse or potential abuse, or neglect, to an ALLEF volunteer, this would immediately be reported to the duty social worker in the relevant English authority, or via the French or German coordinators to the relevant authorities in those countries.
It is not possible to give a list of contact telephone numbers in this document because ALLEF covers every local authority in England, and has also supported exchanges in Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
This policy will be reviewed annually and posted on ALLEF’s website.