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Thoughts From The Charter President: The Child Protection Policy

On occasion, I have offered my thoughts on certain concerns. I don't do this a regular basis nor do I plan to do so on a repetitive basis. In this case, I think it is appropriate to share my present thoughts on the topic of CMIRC and child protection as associated with our projects and interactions with children and the vulnerable.

As you are aware,our club has a published child protection policy which all members are required to review and sign. This policy has been accepted by partners who are requested to review our policy before committing to engage with our club in support of our projects. To date, there have been no incidents within our club or projects involving inappropriate situations with children or vulnerable persons.

So, what has changed? Basically, awareness levels, sensitivity levels and situations where club members and volunteers are coming into closer contact with children in our service projects and Interact Club activities.

I conducted a survey of club members on what they viewed as reasonable, related to several areas including: expanding the pre-induction meeting process to include focused questions on interactions with children; use of references in membership approval and use of criminal records checks for participation in club activities. Approximately one third of club members responded. In general, there appears support for expanding PIM to include focused questions on child interaction and the use of references. When responding about criminal records checks, there appears to be some concerns about personal actions many years ago and/or the security of this type of information. The majority opinion was, if done, the member/non-members (including volunteers) should bear the costs of a criminal records check. There has been a suggestion, to minimize privacy concerns, of using an outside firm to conduct these checks with either a report of “no concern” or “concern” based on the check.

Typically districts within Rotary provide child protection guidelines, usually focused on RI youth activities such as Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE), where there is an extended period of close personal contact between student and host families. In countries, such as Australia, where laws exist regarding organizations coming into contact with children, there are District policies which address the country’s laws and requirements for clubs in the district.

As far as Thailand clubs and districts are concerned, it appears the district guidelines fall in line with RI’s youth protection as focused on Rotary global youth initiatives. For club level activities, there are no guidelines per se. Based on discussions with Past District Governors (PDG’s) in D3350 and D3360, it appears that criminal records checks for club level project activities are not something that occurs at club level here in Thailand. Discussions with clubs also indicate criminal records checks are not standard for club projects here in Thailand.

Several members, including myself, have been approached by project recipient participants (often not minors, but now young adults) about individual financial support. This request is based upon their exposure to me as a Rotarian. I have asked myself: is this appropriate for me to do? My answer is "no". Why? Because this potentially creates a situation of the requestor being obligated to me personally. This may create a “quid pro quo” situation whether real or imagined. In reference to this I suggest members conduct a Google search on the topics of “sugar daddy", "sugar momma", "sugar baby”. I would encourage those receiving these requests to take them to the CMIRC Board for discussion.

Non-Rotary NGO’s who cycle in volunteers on a regular basis do require national police records check reports as a condition of being a volunteer with the organization. In addition, they have requirements/guidelines on interaction between adults and children participating in their programs.

So, what am I thinking? Expand PIMs to include child protection questions and personal reference checks. Continue to request criminal records check report if concerns arise in the PIM. The club should have in place generic guidelines and an education program that club members and project champions review and follow for project participation.

One very basic point in the guidelines is that any person participating in a CMIRC child-related project must do everything possible NOT to be in a situation, in person or electronically, where they will be alone with a child or vulnerable person. If an individual project requires this, then the project champion should request all participants to present a criminal records check report to the project champion for review before they can participate in the project. The champion will return the report to the individual with no copies of report being made.

These are just my personal thoughts at this point in time. We need to keep in mind we all have a responsibility to those we are helping. We have a responsibility to each other. We have a responsibility to our club. We have a responsibility to our district and to Rotary International.


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