September 9, 2020

Putting children first in organisations

Deb Holmes, Manager of Safeguarding Children Services shares how they work with organisations every day of every week to support them as they put children first.

This blog article was written by Deb Holmes, Manager in Safeguarding Children Services at the Australian Childhood Foundation. 

At Safeguarding Children Services within the Australian Childhood Foundation every week and every day is about putting children first.  Our work with organisations is focussed on building their capacity to keep the children and young people that they have contact with, safe.

This means always putting children first at every level of each organisation and each stage of planning any service or program.

This means always putting children first at every level of each organisation and each stage of planning any service or program.  If we don’t put children first when we plan programs and services, then we won’t be sure we are keeping them safe.  Children rely on adults to consider their needs as they don’t have the same authority or power as adults.

We use a number of strategies to help organisations put children first in their governance; their policy and procedure; their risk management; and their service planning and delivery.  We have developed a set of guiding values to underpin the work an organisation does.

Guiding Values

These guiding values support an organisations’ child safe philosophy and direct the fundamental way in which we work and interact with children, young people and their families. They guide us in our actions and assist us in decision-making, they are a reference to which personnel can refer to ensure their responsibilities to children and young people are upheld;

  • Safeguarding children and young people is a shared responsibility, it is reliant on all individuals within our organisation to keep children and young people safe in our care.
  • Any form of abuse or neglect towards children and young people will not be tolerated and immediate action will be taken upon report of any suspected harmful or abusive behaviours
  • The best interest of the child will be the primary consideration in all actions and decisions concerning the safety or well-being of a child or young person.
  • We are accountable to the children and young people we work with by fostering high ethical standards in a culture of openness and transparency.
  • By informing children of their rights and responsibilities we seek to empower children to speak up if something goes wrong. We encourage children and young people to participate in decision-making, particularly on matters that affect them.”

We also assist organisations to develop practices where the voice of children is heard; their rights are considered; and strategies are in place to allow for genuine participation of children and young people in the services in which they participate in.

Voice of the Child and Children’s Participation

In order for children’s voices to be heard, organisations and their personnel need to understand how to allow children to speak up about their views, and about their needs.  We can start doing this by following the processes below.  Most organisations do some of these things some of the time, but it takes considerable determination and focus to achieve these steps consistently.


  • Children are listened to;
  • Children are supported in expressing their views;
  • Children’s views are taken into account;
  • Children are involved in decision-making processes;
  • Children share power and responsibility for decision making.

There are some simple and practical examples of how some of our organisations begin to do this. One of our school’s decided to propose to the senior students that they set up consultations with each year level and have the students work together to propose a Code of Conduct for the students. This was successful and the students developed their own Code of Conduct that was published in the student’s diaries.  One of our counselling organisations set up a Youth Advisory and Reference Group where the young people receiving services were able to nominate to participate in an advisory capacity.  This group can discuss proposed services, collect feedback on current services and advise the organisation on considerations for current and future service delivery.

Children’s Participation

Children have also been describing what they need in order to participate in services and to be confident that we are putting them first when we plan and offer services.  You can see below how we’ve represented what they said.

Putting Children First BI

Sometimes it feels difficult and overwhelming for organisations to put children first in everything they do.  That’s why we translate planning and actions for organisations to take into practical steps that over time assist an organisation to understand how they can put children first and keep them safe.

If we don’t keep our children safe, they can’t grow up to feel confident to manage their world as they want to.

All of us have children somewhere in our lives and it’s hard to imagine that we wouldn’t want to put them first, to keep them safe.

It’s hard to imagine we wouldn’t want to set up our next generation of adults to be the happiest, and best adults they can be to lead the world they will live in.


Child Protection Week Call to Action