UNICEF USA Child Safeguarding and Participation Policy, Guidelines and Best Practices
It is the mission of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF d/b/a UNICEF USA (“UUSA”) and UNICEF, grounded in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to promote the rights and well-being of every child, in everything we do at UUSA. UUSA is committed to actively safeguarding children from harm as a result of UUSA’s activities, its people and its associates. UUSA has a zero-tolerance policy with respect to child abuse or harm. Our Policy and Guidelines must be taken into consideration when planning any activities, especially when they involve children directly or indirectly.
Everyone associated with UUSA — including volunteers and professionals who work with UUSA — are responsible for safeguarding children. Child safeguarding is the paramount consideration in all our work and operations. The organization places utmost importance on creating the most secure environment possible for children as we advocate for children and promote their rights locally, nationally and internationally through our work in the United States. Building guidelines around child safeguarding allows UUSA to enhance all of its work for the benefit of every child, including its work with children, by providing a safe environment for children, and to enable children to be agents of change and actively participate in decisions that affect them and their future.
To this end, all UUSA constituents should:
- read and acknowledge UUSA’s Child Safeguarding and Participation Policy, Guidelines and Best Practices (“Policy and Guidelines”)
- familiarize themselves with situations that may present risks — and learn how to deal with those situations
- commit to child safeguarding best practices and model safe behaviors
- contribute to an environment where everyone, including children, are able to recognize unacceptable behavior and feel able to discuss their rights and concerns
UUSA is committed to remaining aware, vigilant and uncompromising when it comes to the well-being and safeguarding of children. The best interests of the child will always be the deciding factor in all situations. Any activities involving child participation should also require adherence to applicable child participation principles, which include ensuring participation is voluntary, safe and sensitive to risk, child friendly, inclusive, respectful, relevant and informative; and that environments are transparent and supported by trained adults who follow best practices and are accountable.
The Policy and Guidelines should be considered when:
- engaging in any activities that involve children, directly or indirectly
- planning or implementing UNICEF USA activities
- facilitating visits by staff, sponsors, donors and supporters to UNICEF program countries
- developing activities involving children including third-party events and partner-led events
- processing, storing and distributing information on children, such as family profiles and personal data, in accordance with our data protection and privacy agreement
- promoting our work through the use of images and quotes or stories of children
- volunteering or staffing events
The Policy and Guidelines apply to all UUSA staff members and non-staff personnel, including temporary employees, interns, consultants and independent contractors; volunteers; donors and prospective donors; vendors and others in the context of the work of UUSA through any national office, regional office or other method while supporting, working or officially traveling for UUSA.
The Policy and Guidelines prohibit any conduct that exposes children to harm, abuse, neglect or exploitation in any form. Inappropriate behavior toward children (directly or indirectly, physically or verbally, in person, digitally or otherwise) is grounds for discipline, up to and including dismissal from the assignment, employment termination, termination of agreements and/or permanent removal. Vendors will be made aware of the Policy and Guidelines. Vendor staff who interact with or engage with children in collaboration with UNICEF USA will agree to and acknowledge UNICEF USA’s Child Safeguarding Code of Conduct.
The Policy and Guidelines are not comprehensive to every interaction with children that UUSA undertakes. For this reason, each team that is working directly or indirectly with children should have a documented standard operating procedures (SOPs) outlining how they will implement the Policy and Guidelines through their operation. These SOPs should be reviewed and updated every 2 to 3 years by the Child Safeguarding Officers and added to the annex of this document.
- “Constituent” – an entity who has relevance to UNICEF USA
- “Chaperone” – a parent, caregiver or designee who has received explicit written consent from parents/guardians of children to be responsible for a child for any event or activity or is the parent/legal guardian of the child
- “Child” or “children” – an individual constituent under the age of 18
- “Child abuse” — includes 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; may be a deliberate act or failure to act to prevent harm
- “Board member” – volunteer member of the UNICEF USA National Board or member of any of the nine UNICEF USA regional office boards
- “Child safeguarding” – proactive measures UNICEF USA puts in place to limit direct and indirect collateral risks of harm to children, arising from UNICEF USA work, its personnel or associates
- “Child protection” – actions UNICEF USA takes when we have specific concerns that a particular child is at risk of significant harm; UNICEF’s Child Protection programs supported by UNICEF USA are aimed at promoting polices and expanding access to services that protect all children
- “Non-staff personnel” – temporary employees, interns, consultants, independent contractors, vendors and vendor staff, etc.
- “Staff member” – a member of staff or management of UNICEF USA, permanent or temporary
- “Volunteer” – a supporter of any age who offers their time, knowledge and/or abilities to UNICEF USA on a non-paid basis; may include a national or regional Board member or celebrity ambassador
- “Vendor” – any entity or individual with which UNICEF USA has contracted for paid work
- “Donor” – a known constituent who has contributed to UNICEF USA
- “Prospect” or ”prospective donor” – a constituent which UNICEF USA has identified as relevant but not yet demonstrated interest in UNICEF USA
Mandatory reporting of child abuse. All involved in UUSA are personally responsible to immediately report any belief or good faith suspicion that any child is being or has been subjected to child abuse of any kind, in any circumstance, within or outside UNICEF USA activities. The person making such report must notify their supervisor, the UUSA Child Safeguarding Officer or UUSA Human Resources staff and can do so by submitting an incident report through EthicsPoint. UUSA is required to follow up on the incident.
Allegations involving UUSA or UNICEF personnel. All involved in UUSA (and everyone covered by the Policy and Guidelines) are required to report to the Chief People Officer any reasonable suspicion that UUSA or UNICEF personnel (including non-staff personnel as listed above) have violated the Policy and Guidelines or otherwise engaged in conduct that undermines the protection or safeguarding of children, including, but not limited to, violations of the best practices listed below. UUSA will investigate any allegations and determine the appropriate response regarding UUSA personnel and refer any allegations regarding UNICEF personnel to the appropriate UNICEF officials. Allegations of abuse about UNICEF Personnel also should be reported to the UNICEF Office of Internal Audit and Investigation by emailing email@example.com.
Recruiting and screening
UUSA will follow all federal and state laws, if any, regarding recruiting and screening of prospective UUSA personnel (including non-staff personnel as listed above) who interact with children. However, at a minimum, UUSA personnel (including non-staff personnel as listed above) will be subject to the most robust safeguarding screening for which they are eligible to ensure proper due diligence with regard to child safeguarding. UUSA will perform criminal background checks on all prospective employees (and non-employee personnel listed above) who will work with children in their duties at UUSA and may perform criminal background checks on volunteers and others who interact with children or their data. Due diligence will also be conducted on vendors, partners and others who interact with children. Vendors will be made aware of the Policy and Guidelines and vendor staff who interact with or engage with children in collaboration with UNICEF USA will agree to and acknowledge UNICEF USA’s Child Safeguarding Code of Conduct.
Business practices for child-friendly behavior while working, volunteering or officially traveling for UUSA
UNICEF USA has a zero-tolerance policy with respect to child abuse or harm and these guidelines will be taken into consideration when planning any activities involving children. Before attending UUSA sponsored events, all children participants must have permission slips and photo release forms/waivers signed by themselves informing of their consent and signed by their parent(s) or guardian(s). If approval is given for travel but not a photo, the box on the approval form should be left blank and the child must not be included in any photos, images or stories.
Children participating in UUSA events lasting longer than a day are also required to submit health forms that highlight allergies and any other medical conditions and that release staff to seek medical treatment in the event of an emergency. As part of planning, transportation and insurance arrangements should be considered and recorded. For events that are shorter than a day, it is advised that chaperones have permission slips with emergency contact and health information with them for the duration of the event. Also, specific health conditions, medical needs and emergency contact information should be identified and recorded ahead of the event.
UUSA has developed the best business practices listed below. These are primarily for the safeguarding of children. However, they also serve to protect adults and the organization. Any questions seeking clarification, concerns, or incident reports should be directed to the Child Safeguarding Officer, Focal Point, supervisor or Senior Management Team member as appropriate.
Communications about and with children
Child safeguarding should be considered in the planning of activities, risks assessed and mitigation actions taken. Recommendations for how to best mitigate risks for children include ensuring that:
- communication with children always take place over monitored channels; all digital and tele-communications with children should include parents/caregivers at every stage of the project, ranging from outreach to any calls, emails and online or direct surveys, both before and/or after an event
- adults are not ‘alone with a child’ (physically or digitally) outside of monitored channels
- communication with children, verbal or written, is inclusive, avoiding discrimination and singling out individual children.
- there is no digital or electronic communication UNICEF USA Staff and children under the age of 13
- communications about children use pictures, video and language that are respectful, protect the dignity and rights of children and comply with any UNICEF Division of Communication guidelines
- UUSA publications, blogs, stories etc., do not include personal information, addresses, social media handles or contact information that would risk violating the privacy and/or safety of the child
- personal addresses or contact information used for a mailing distribution list is not distributed unless proper authorization from all parties is given
- other than first name, age, and area of residence (but not specific address), children’s personal information is not disclosed on the UUSA website or in other mass communications, including information that could be used to identify the location of children within their country or any combination that would risk violating the privacy and/or safety of the child
- photos of children or quotes, images and stories include as many diverse backgrounds as possible
- informed consent of a chaperone, parent/guardian or designee is obtained before recording information or obtaining images, and the intended use(s) of such materials explained
- informed verbal consent is required, except where images are made in the public sphere or the subjects are not recognizable in the photo; informed verbal consent occurs when any videographer or photographer or UNICEF contact person on the ground discusses the intention of the documentation project at hand with the subjects and children’s guardians, including where the materials will be released and the impact of potentially being recognized globally. Permission is then obtained verbally that the subject understands how UNICEF/UNICEF USA will be using the materials (i.e., to advocate for their rights and to generate public support for our work and their circumstances) and where they will potentially be placed, including print and digital media outlets and global broadcasters. When videotaping first person stories, it is good practice to obtain verbal consent on camera. The subject can briefly acknowledge that they understand how these materials will be used and distributed.
- written informed consent is obtained as necessary/as required: further written consent may be required depending on the laws of specific countries (e.g., in the U.S., with images of children under 18, a parent or legal guardian must also sign the release, whereas in other countries the principal of a school is considered the guardian and can give written or verbal consent); although not strictly required, it is also sometimes wise to secure subject releases from documentary subjects photographed in private settings, especially if their stories are sensitive or controversial; this release ensures that they have reflected on their consent to be photographed and will not subsequently legally challenge its veracity
- communications between children encountered during UNICEF USA business and anyone covered by the Policy and Guidelines is limited to official UUSA business, including for youth engagement, youth empowerment and volunteer organizing business, and be conducted over monitored channels
- communications with children is conducted through official UNICEF USA platforms on email, SMS and other communication tools sanctioned and governed by UNICEF USA; any communications that cannot take place on official platforms of email and SMS must be conducted via official UUSA-supported devices
- emails are sent through official volunteer accounts where multiple staff can view and track conversations; these include: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, regional office email accounts, UNICEFUNITE.org email accounts monitored by staff or UNICEFClubs.org email accounts monitored by staff)
- all email communication with children include two staff members or emails monitored by staff, or one staff member and one parent/guardian/advisor; communications may also be conducted through approved communication channels monitored by two or more staff members
- SMS communications take place on SMS platforms integrated with UUSA’s databases of record (BBCRM or Salesforce); if SMS platforms integrated with CRM are unavailable or not fit for a particular use case, staff should include other staff in the SMS exchange
- a parent/guardian is included in or informed of individualized communications with children
- children and their parents are briefed on their roles in public events and feel comfortable and prepared, and events scripted and moderated; dialogues, Q&A's or interviews with children that will be public must be planned and conducted in a child-friendly manner
- children’s personal information in mass audience events or digital recordings is anonymized to avoid identifying children publicly
- children and parents have a way to provide feedback or concerns following an event, unless written consent is given by the parent or guardian to remove them from a specific communication requesting that feedback; if the parent/guardian is unknown, an advisor teacher or authorized chaperone can be used to collect feedback
- all communication pertaining travel, final event logistics and/or additional responsibilities being requested of the child should copy the parent, guardian, authorized chaperone, advisor and/or teacher
- events with child speakers/participants in the run up to a show includes a contingency plan if the child decides to opt out of their role during the event or immediately prior
- all event participants where children are present includes a child safeguarding briefing for hosts, moderators, vendors, presenters, contractors, volunteers and staff; and that all constituents receive a copy of, and are expected to adhere to, the child safeguarding code of conduct before, during and after the event
- all in-person events where children are present must have an emergency response plan that includes informing parents or guardians of any incidents
- all in-person events have a terms and conditions for chaperones to agree with that includes specifics of the event, their responsibilities as a chaperone and information in this document
One-on-one contact between adults and children alone is prohibited, unless the responsible or accompanying adult is a parent or legal guardian, designee or chaperone. Staff, volunteers or donors should not take a child or children into a private place out of view of other adults. The “two-adult” rule, wherein two or more adults, who have passed a background check by UUSA, supervise all activities where children are involved and are present at all times, should be followed.
Separate overnight accommodations for adults and children are required. When traveling for an official UUSA event, chaperones of children are not permitted to sleep in the same room as children. Chaperones must sleep nearby when possible and safe. Separate bedrooms and bathrooms should be provided for children of different genders; children and caregivers should be consulted about sleeping arrangements. Immediate family members, guardians or chaperones with explicit authorization from parents/guardians are exempt from this restriction. Sensitivity to a child’s gender identify should be considered as well as the comfort and safety of all the children.
Identifying information of children
Handle with sensitivity the use of images of children on the internet. To ensure the protection and privacy of children, UUSA should use children’s first names only. Refrain from disclosing sensitive information (including the use of children’s last names and their specific community information and specific addresses) that could be used to identify children or their families to unauthorized persons, including the general public. The use of full names may be used with written consent of the child and the parent or legal guardian. In addition, images of children should never be exploitive, but show the positive nature of UNICEF’s work and respect for children’s dignity and align with UNICEF standards.
No tolerance for bullying or abuse
Verbal, physical and cyber bullying and abuse are prohibited in UUSA activities. Physical violence, theft and verbal insults also have no place at UUSA.
Transportation of children
Use of personal vehicles to transport children from one location to another is permitted, but capacity is not to exceed the maximum factory standards of the vehicle, and two adults must be present in each vehicle. In addition, proper insurance is required when transporting children involved in a UNICEF or UUSA activity. Special parental permission to transport may be required depending on the activity. Parental permission/consent, licensing and insurance should be documented. The field trips should depart from and return to a place that is pre-approved. Departure and return times must be age appropriate (nighttime departures or arrivals are discouraged). Children should have adequate time to adjust and rest upon arrival at the destination. All local road, traffic and safety regulations must be followed.
Whenever possible, meetings involving children should be held in a public and accessible location, such as a school, house of worship, library, community center, or the like. If meetings are held in private homes, all pets, firearms, and alcohol should be out of sight and out of reach. An assessment and accommodations should be made prior to an event in a home.
Alcohol and drugs
Children are generally not permitted at fundraisers or events organized by an external constituent or non-UUSA staff, where alcohol is present. Children invited to a UUSA sponsored fundraiser or event where alcohol is present must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Chaperones attending events must not consume alcohol at UUSA events; children attending events are not permitted to consume alcohol under any circumstances. At a UUSA event where children are present and alcohol is being served, there should always be a designated staff member who is responsible for supporting children and chaperones at the event. This staff member is not permitted to drink alcohol at the event. Drugs are prohibited at all UUSA events. UUSA reserves the right to limit serving alcohol at sponsored events.
Personal use of social media sites
UUSA employees and non-employee personnel are strongly encouraged to use appropriate privacy settings to control access to their personal social media sites. However, there are limitations to privacy settings. Private communication published on the internet can easily become public.
Social media sites can also change their current default privacy settings and other functions. Employees and non-employee personnel are responsible for understanding the rules of the social media site being utilized. Remember your association with and responsibility to UUSA in online social media environments. If you identify yourself as a UUSA employee, non-employee personnel or volunteer, ensure your profile is professional and related content is consistent with how you wish to present yourself with colleagues, donors, partners, parents and students. How you represent yourself online should be comparable to how you represent yourself in person. The same duties and standards of conduct that apply to us offline also apply in the social media space.
Sharing UUSA news and events or promoting our work through social media tools is an excellent, low-cost way to engage the community and build our brand. Do re-post and share information that is available by UNICEF USA, UNICEF and other parts of the organization to the public (press releases, articles on unicefusa.org, internet news, etc.) with your networks. Link to the original UNICEF USA or UNICEF source (official website, blog).
You must not give the impression that you are speaking on behalf of UNICEF or UNICEF USA unless you have been authorized to post in an official capacity.
Before posting photographs and videos, permission must be obtained from the subject(s) and their parent, legal guardian, caregiver or designee. This is a nonwaivable requirement where photographs of children involved in UUSA activities or events are concerned. Social media interactions with children are limited to professional communication connected to UUSA volunteer activation. Communication between children and UUSA staff or volunteers on social media outlets is limited to relevant actions to achieving organizational goals. Records should be kept of all conversations and your supervisor should be informed that communication is happening.
Field visit briefing books include guidelines on how to take appropriate photos of children, including Photo & Story Guidelines and Interacting with Victims of Abuse Guidance. Only appropriate photos should be shared on participants' social media channels, and only with the permission of the country office representative or UNICEF USA staff.
Chaperones of children
A chaperone is someone who has received explicit written consent from parents/guardians of children to be responsible for a child for an event or activity or is the parent/legal guardian of the child. An eligible chaperone for a UUSA-sponsored activity or event is someone who is at least 21 years old and agrees to the terms of conditions of chaperoning that activity or event. Chaperones of children involved in UUSA sponsored events should remain on the same premises as the child in their custody. Chaperones should ideally be someone known and trusted by the child(ren) being supervised; chaperones must agree to uphold child safeguarding in their duties as a chaperone and receive a special briefing related to their responsibilities for specific events. If possible, one chaperone should have first aid training. A child’s parent or guardian must provide written consent to a particular chaperone being responsible for their child at a particular event.
Chaperones must also keep a hard copy of the signed permission forms and emergency contact forms on their person and be able to access an electronic copy at all times.
When traveling with children and young people the recommended adult-to-child ratio can vary depending on the size of the group, ages of the children and individual children's behaviors and needs. For events that are less than 12 hours in duration, one adult can chaperone up to 20 children (or follow the state guidelines for field trips, whichever is stricter). For events longer than 12 hours, one adult can chaperone up to 8 children or as set by state guidelines for field trips (whichever is stricter).
The adults are always considered responsible. The adults are accountable and held responsible for maintaining an appropriate adult-child relationship, even if a child behaves inappropriately. Adults must not place themselves or the children in their care in compromising, unsafe or vulnerable positions.
Code of conduct
All adults — whether UUSA staff members and non-staff personnel (including temporary employees, interns, consultants and independent contractors), volunteers, donors, vendors and vendor staff brought into contact with children — should follow the Employee Code of Conduct and the Policy and Guidelines outlined here. UNICEF USA expects that adults will use common sense and sound judgment in their activities. Examples of misconduct that will require immediate disciplinary measures up to and including termination include, but are not limited to, the following:
- being under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs, or the manufacture, possession, use, sale, or distribution of illegal drugs or unauthorized alcohol, on UNICEF USA time or on UNICEF USA premises
- the manufacture, possession, use, sale or distribution of firearms or other weapons (e.g., knives, box cutters, etc.) on UNICEF USA time or on UNICEF USA premises
- insubordinate behavior involving, but not limited to, defaming, assaulting or threatening to assault any other person, and refusing to carry out the order of a supervisor where personal safety is not an issue
- willful falsification of any record, report or UNICEF USA document, including false reporting of time worked
- walking off the job without supervisory permission
- theft of company property or the personal property of fellow workers
- using or borrowing UNICEF USA property, including electronic mail, computers, copiers, other office equipment, tools, supplies, or any other resource without authorization
- sabotaging or willfully damaging UNICEF USA equipment or the property of other employees or other non-staff personnel
- fighting or provoking a fight, including threats, abusive language or behavior, on UNICEF USA premises or property, including UNICEF USA electronic, digital, and social media properties
- sleeping on the job during scheduled work time
- soliciting or accepting gratuities or other payments from suppliers or agencies under contract with UNICEF USA, or soliciting or accepting personal favors, gratuities or other payments of a personal nature from any donor to UNICEF USA
- absence for three consecutive working days without notice or failure to return from Family and Medical Leave on the scheduled date of return (considered a voluntary resignation)
UUSA's Code of Conduct and Policy and Guidelines for interactions with children further specify to:
- always work in a way that respects the child’s dignity and rights and places their best interests above all other considerations
- always treat all children with equal respect, without discrimination, regardless of their race, sex, gender, gender identity or expression, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, age, language, social origin or any other shared characteristic or trait
- always respect cultural and religious differences when engaging with children and their families and be sensitive to these in interactions with them
- always maintain appropriate boundaries at all times whenever having direct or indirect contact with children, and do not engage in any conduct that breaches appropriate boundaries; this includes online and digital contact
- always act on safeguarding concerns swiftly, reporting matters of concern in accordance with these Guidelines to reduce the risk of further harm to a child. If a child needs emergency medical attention make that your first priority
- always recognize that as a mandated reporter, adults are obligated to report known or suspected child abuse immediately or as soon as practically possible to the Designated Child Safeguarding Officer or Focal Points
- always follow the ‘two-adults’ rule, with two or more adults (visibly) supervising all children’s activities at all times (physically or digitally)
- don't be “alone with a child” (physically or digitally) that is not your own or under your care outside of monitored channels
- don’t engage in any sexual activity (contact or non-contact) with a child, or any activity that could be perceived as intimate
- don’t endorse the participation of a child in abusive activities (e.g. bullying)
- don’t verbally or emotionally abuse a child, such as by shaming or degrading them (including stalking or online bullying)
- don’t discriminate or single out children based on personal reasons, preferences or prejudice, or make a child uncomfortable
- don’t engage a child as your household servant
- don’t groom children or engage in any sexual activity with a child (including online)
- don’t marry a child (including if permitted under state law)
- don’t assault, hit, burn, slap, punch, pinch, kick, bite, push a child or pull their hair
- don’t neglect children
- don’t expose children to violence
- don’t engage in harmful practices (such as female genital mutilation or cutting or child marriage)
- don’t engage in child trafficking
- don’t engage children in illegal activities or expose them to situations that might endanger them