Child Protection Standards
Plan International USA is committed to actively safeguarding children from harm and to ensuring that children’s rights to protection are fully realized. We take seriously our responsibility to promote child-safe practices and to protect children from harm, abuse, neglect, and exploitation in any form.
In addition, we will take positive action to prevent child abusers from becoming involved with Plan in any way and will take stringent measures against any Plan staff, Board members, volunteers, interns, sponsors, consultants, contractors, vendors, advisers, official guests of Plan, representatives of partner organizations, local governments, and visitors to Plan offices and programs (hereafter referred to as Plan International USA Associates) who abuse a child. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) provides the foundation for Plan International USA’s work both locally and internationally, and our decisions and actions in response to child protection concerns will be guided by the principle of “the best interests of the child.”
To this end, all Plan International USA Associates should:
- Familiarize themselves with situations that may present risks and learn how to deal with those situations;
- Contribute to an environment where children are able to recognize unacceptable behavior and feel able to discuss their rights and concerns;
- Wherever practical, ensure that they and others meet children openly;
- Raise concerns about any case of suspected abuse in accordance with applicable procedures.
Further, as participation in Plan programs bespeaks a bond of trust between Plan, children involved in Plan programs, and their families, all Plan International USA Associates must also:
- Refrain from disclosing information (including the use of children’s last names and their community information, including name and location) that could be used to identify sponsored children or their families to unauthorized persons, including the general public;
- Handle with sensitivity the use of images of sponsored children on the Internet. To ensure the protection and privacy of sponsored children, Plan International USA uses children’s first names only and does not release exact dates of birth.
Each Plan country has its local procedures, consistent with Plan’s global policy, to deal with child protection issues. It is the responsibility of Boards and Directors (Field, National Offices, and International Headquarters) to ensure that all Plan Associates in their area of responsibility are aware of and abide by this policy and applicable local procedures while working for Plan.
The purpose of the standards contained within this document is to ensure that, as the U.S. office of Plan, Plan International USA has established procedures for addressing child protection issues and that these are in accordance both with the child protection standards set forth in Plan’s “Policy on Child Protection: Say ‘Yes!’ to Keeping Children Safe,” as well as with those standards established in the Interaction Member Agencies’ “Child Protection Standards for Child Sponsorship Agencies.”
These standards apply to all Plan International USA Associates brought into contact with children while supporting, working, or officially traveling for Plan International USA.
Associates are required to bear in mind the principles of the Child Protection Policy and Standards and heighten their awareness of how their behavior may be perceived both at work and outside work. Unlawful or other conduct by Plan employees and Associates that violates the intent of the Child Protection Policy and Standards and jeopardizes Plan’s reputation or position, whether during or after business hours, will not be permitted or tolerated. Such conduct includes, but is not limited to: any unlawful activity related to sexual abuse; sexual harassment; and physically/verbally abusive behavior.
As an organization, Plan International USA is always to be aware, vigilant, and uncompromising when implementing our Child Protection Policy and Standards. Following are some examples of when the Child Protection Policy and Standards should be considered:
- When implementing institutionally-funded grant programs
- When facilitating staff/sponsor/donor/supporter visits to program countries
- When engaging in activities involving children locally in the U.S.
- When developing initiatives and projects involving child participation
- When storing and distributing sensitive and confidential information on children – such as family profiles and sponsorship communications
- When sending mail to sponsored children
- When promoting our work through the use of images of children
- When children from program countries visit the U.S.
- Child: any person below the age of 18 years
- Child abuse: all forms of physical abuse, emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse and exploitation, neglect or negligent treatment, commercial or other exploitation of a child, including any actions that result in actual or potential harm to a child. Child abuse may be a deliberate act or it may be failing to act to prevent harm. Child abuse consists of anything that individuals, institutions, or processes do or fail to do, intentionally or unintentionally, which harms a child or damages his or her prospect of safe and healthy development into adulthood.
- Child protection: the responsibilities, measures, and activities that Plan undertakes to safeguard children from both intentional and unintentional harm
Plan International USA is part of a global organization that works side by side with communities in 50 developing countries to end the cycle of poverty for children. We develop solutions community by community to ensure long-term sustainability. Our level of community engagement, long-term outlook, and constant focus on the needs and priorities of children is one of our strengths. Our solutions are designed up-front to be owned by communities for generations to come, and range from clean water and healthcare programs to education projects and child protection initiatives. Our vision is one of a world in which all children realize their full potential in societies that respect people’s rights and dignities.
Plan International USA will take positive action to prevent child abusers from becoming involved with Plan in any way. The organization will take stringent measures against any Plan Associate who abuses a child.
It is the responsibility of the Board and/or Chief Executive Officer through department directors to ensure that all Plan participants in their area of responsibility are aware of and agree to abide by this policy and applicable local procedures while working for Plan. One member of our Board is responsible for considering child protection issues in all Board decisions.
All participants are responsible for raising concerns however distressing that may be. The welfare of the child must come first. If, in good faith, it is suspected or known that abuse is occurring or has occurred, it must be raised in line with the child protection procedures (of the relevant Plan country if in a Plan program country or another donor country), even if the person suspected of committing the abuse is in a senior position. If warning signs are ignored, a child may remain unprotected and subject to further abuse.
1. Behavior Protocols/Codes of Conduct While Working or Officially Traveling for Plan International USA
1.1 Plan International USA Associates should not take a child or children into a private place out of view of other adults. Plan staff members are encouraged to be accompanied by parent/legal guardians and/or community members on visits with children.
1.2 Plan International USA Associates must not stay alone with one or more children who are not part of their immediate or extended family, whether in the house, project premises, or elsewhere.
1.3 Where possible, and practical, the “two-adult” rule, wherein two or more adults supervise all activities where children are involved and are present at all times, should be followed.
1.4 Plan International USA Associates should be aware of high-risk peer situations and immediately report the circumstances of any situation that may be subject to misinterpretation to the designated Child Protection Officer.
1.5 Plan International USA Associates need to be aware that they may work with children who, because of circumstances and abuses they may have experienced, may use a relationship to obtain “special attention”. The adult is always considered responsible for maintaining an appropriate relationship, even if a child behaves inappropriately. Adults should not place themselves in compromising or vulnerable positions.
1.6 Inappropriate behavior toward children, including failure to follow Plan International USA’s behavior protocols, policy, and standards, is grounds for discipline, up to and including dismissal from employment, volunteer/internship, or Board/advisory council membership.
2. Human Resources – Recruiting and Screening
2.1 By the nature of our work, Plan International USA holds personal details of children and their families. This information has been provided by individuals and families with the understanding that it will be used to find them sponsors. It is our responsibility to establish and enforce the means with which to ensure that the information is used in this way and not abused:
- Not everyone has access to details of children; access is only given on the basis of role. Details are held securely and access to our computer systems are protected by passwords.
- If information containing details of children and their families must be destroyed, it is done so in a secure manner.
- Suppliers and agencies working on our behalf are made aware of our child and data protection policies and that they are expected to comply with the policies and standards.
2.2 Established measures ensure that Plan International USA Associates do not put children at risk, either from their action or lack of action:
- All prospective employees are educated in Plan International USA’s Child Protection Policy and Standards and related child protection issues. The Child Protection Policy and Standards are part of the orientation procedure for all new staff, who are required to sign an acknowledgement form stating that they have reviewed, understand, and will comply with Plan International USA’s Child Protection Policy and Standards.
- Child protection refresher trainings, workshops, and/or discussion forums are provided for all Plan International USA Associates as appropriate to their engagement with Plan.
- Plan International USA Associates who will have contact with children or personal child information relating to Plan International USA business are required to follow the policies and guidelines for child and data protection and are expected to follow behavioral protocols/codes of conduct.
- Plan International USA performs a criminal background check on Board members, current and prospective employees, volunteers, consultants, vendors, and interns. In the best interests of the children, Plan International USA will not knowingly employ anyone with a conviction for child abuse, pedophilia, or a related offense.
- The Director of Donor Relations & Loyalty is the contact person for issues relating to child protection pertaining to all sponsorship matters. The VP of Human Resources is the contact person for issues relating to staff concerns about child protection. Plan International USA Associates have the responsibility to bring child protection issues to the attention of these individuals, however minor the concerns.
3. Protection of Children in Plan Program Communities
Plan’s child-focused programs are implemented in various countries around the world through the generous support of individual sponsors and donors, corporate and foundation partners, and institutional grants. Sponsorship is a wonderful opportunity to share in our work through the eyes of children and their families, and many strong friendships develop. To ensure that we do not allow harmful relationships to develop through the sponsorship process, we have the following safeguards in place:
Plan International USA Sponsors and Supporters
3.1 We expect our sponsors and supporters to act in the best interests of children. Should situations occur that cause us to doubt the appropriateness or the intentions of a specific individual as they pertain to the sponsorship of a child, those cases should be referred to the Director of Donor Relations & Loyalty. The Director will handle these on a case-by-case basis and consult with the CEO, as necessary, to make a decision regarding the status of the sponsorship in question. If the application for sponsorship is declined or sponsorship is brought to a close, the Director of Donor Relations & Loyalty will write to the individual advising him/her of the decision and the reason. All consultation and decisions will be recorded.
3.2 At the time of sponsorship, all sponsors are informed of our child and data protection policies, including the prohibition of unannounced visits to their child. Only when the sponsor is planning a field visit shall we require written acknowledgement that the sponsor has received and understands both the Child Protection Policy and Standards and the visit policy.
Sponsor a Child Web Page
3.3 The child photos and information displayed on the “Sponsor a Child” section of the Plan International USA website are those of real children. Once a child is assigned to a sponsor, his or her photo and information is removed from the site. Limited information is provided on the site about these children so as to protect their privacy. We kindly request that you do not copy or use these photos in any way. For questions about sponsorship, contact a Donor Relations Representative at DonorRelations@ planusa.org.
3.4 Plan International USA has procedures in place for ensuring appropriateness of content in communications between sponsors and children. All sponsor communications are screened for inappropriate content, and any issues or incidents are documented and reported for follow-up action.
3.5 The Internet is an uncontrolled and unregulated media. Recognizing this, we ask sponsors to respect the privacy of the children and their families by refraining from posting personal information about their specific child on the Internet, such as the child’s full name, date of birth, and community information (e.g., name and location).
3.6 No exchange of contact details should take place between sponsors and their sponsored children during the sponsorship. Upon “graduation” of the sponsorship (when the sponsored child reaches the age of 18), approval of requests for contact detail exchanges are the exception (based on a risk assessment, which includes the relationship to date) and agreed to by appropriate senior management. Where continued contact is approved, the graduated sponsored child and his/her family are made aware of the implications of the continued relationship, its risks as well as potential. Final approval for contact is obtained from the graduated sponsored child and/or caregiver as appropriate.
Visits to Sponsored Children
3.7 We encourage and arrange for sponsors and other Plan International USA Associates to visit sponsored children and families in their communities as well as to visit communities to witness Plan’s work in action. We have a firm policy in place to ensure that children being visited are safe. All sponsors receive visit guidelines when they begin their sponsorship, and the visit policy is outlined in detail. Sponsored children and their families are also aware of the visit policy. Prospective visitors should take note that:
- Ideally, all visits should be arranged at least eight to 10 weeks in advance through Plan International USA.
- Visitors must sign a statement that says that they understand and will comply with both our Child Protection Policy and Standards and our visit policy.
- Criminal background checks will be performed on U.S. sponsors, staff, and other Plan International USA supporters prior to field visits.
- Unauthorized visits will not be allowed, and Plan’s Zero Tolerance Policy will be strictly enforced.
- Plan staff or a community volunteer must be present throughout each visit to a sponsored child.
- Sponsored children and their siblings must not be invited or taken away from their communities unless the child/children are accompanied by a parent/guardian and Plan staff member.
- Plan International USA will not facilitate the visit of any child to a sponsor’s country. Any request for such assistance will be tactfully declined.
- After every visit the field sends a report to Plan International USA. All visits are monitored by Plan Associates.
4. Communications About Children
4.1 Communications about children should use pictures and language that are decent and respectful.
4.2 We will not provide children’s personal addresses or contact information to sponsors.
4.3 We will not disclose children’s personal information to nonsponsors, or disclose information that could be used to identify the location of children within their country on our website or in other mass communications. We expect the same respect for children’s protection and privacy from our sponsors and supporters.
4.4 The informed consent of a child and/or parent/guardian is always obtained before recording information or obtaining images, and the intended use(s) of such materials are explained.
Alleged cases of child abuse should be reported to the relevant directors (Country, Regional, National, IH) depending on the location of the alleged abuse. They will refer the matter to the local authorities and decide on other appropriate steps, including informing relevant Plan offices and/or supporting criminal prosecution.
If an employee raises a legitimate concern about suspected child abuse, which proves to be unfounded upon investigation, no action will be taken against the employee. Any employee who makes false or malicious accusations, however, will face disciplinary and legal action. Plan will take appropriate legal or other action against other Plan Associates who make false and malicious accusations of child abuse.
An alleged perpetrator of child abuse will normally be suspended from his/her normal relationship with Plan during investigation of allegations. Plan will sever all relations with any Plan Associate who is proven to have committed child abuse.
Plan International USA has measures in place to inform Associates of our Child Protection Policy and Standards. When sponsors and/or supporters knowingly go against our policies, Plan International USA reserves the right to bring the relationship to a close and to take follow-up action with external bodies as appropriate. For the benefit, protection, and well-being of the children and their families:
- We cannot knowingly continue to put a child at risk, or at potential risk, and in making this decision will err on the side of caution.
- For our development work to achieve results, it is vital that we retain the trust and confidence of the children and the families with whom we work.
- We will not continue to facilitate a relationship knowing that it does not respect basic human rights of privacy and protection from harm.
An allegation of child abuse is a serious issue. In following Plan’s Child Protection Policy and Standards and local procedures, it is essential that all parties maintain confidentiality. Sharing of information, which could identify a child or an alleged perpetrator, should be purely on a “need to know” basis. Unless abuse has actually been proved to have occurred, one must always refer to “alleged abuse.”
As stated previously, the Director of Donor Relations & Loyalty is the contact person for issues relating to child protection pertaining to all sponsorship matters. If an application for sponsorship is declined or sponsorship is brought to a close, the Director of Donor Relations & Loyalty will write to the individual advising him/her of the decision and the reason. All consultation and decisions will be recorded. The VP of Human Resources is the contact person for issues relating to staff concerns about child protection. All issues should be brought to the attention of these individuals, however minor the concerns. Consultations will be held with the CEO, as necessary, to make a decision regarding the breach of the Child Protection Policy and Standards.
One member of our Board is responsible for considering child protection issues in all Board decisions.
Prohibition on the Promotion or Advocacy of the Legalization or Practice of Prostitution or Sex Trafficking
Plan International USA recognizes that all children have a right to protection from commercial sexual exploitation, prostitution, and trafficking. In this respect they have always been treated as victims of a crime and not offenders, and the child’s best interest shall be the primary consideration as expressed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography. Nothing in this policy shall conflict with these rights.
Plan International USA is the U.S. National Organization of Plan, an international, child-centered development organization with offices worldwide. As a National Organization of Plan, Plan International USA is responsible for raising funds, shaping corporate policy, delivering programs, forming partnerships, and advocating and promoting awareness and understanding of Plan's work.
Original 3/1/04 Revised 11/01/11