ATHENRY FOOTBALL CLUB CHILD PROTECTION POLICY
Incorporating the Football Association of Ireland, Connacht Football Association and Galway Football Association
The introduction of this Child Protection Policy is a clear signal by Athenry Football Club that it is determined to ensure all necessary steps are taken to protect from harm, those children and young people who participate in coaching sessions/games at all levels with Athenry Soccer Club. This document falls clearly into line with the regulations on Child Protection and is used by the Athenry Soccer Club as part of its training programme.
The F.A.I. Child Protection and Practices Handbook places a clear responsibility on coaching organizations to ensure that they safeguard and promote the welfare of all children. The purpose of this written policy is to inform all coaches and other staff about these responsibilities and to enable everyone to have a clear understanding of how they are to be carried out.
Athenry Football Club managers, coaches and selectors must follow and incorporate the F.A.I Child Protection Procedures and Practices Handbook (a guide to procedure and practice for all coaches/trainers). This is available on the F.A.I website at www.fai.ie
The club acknowledges that our coaches are particularly well placed to notice outward signs of abuse, changes in behavior or failure to develop. We recognize the important role we have in early recognition of the signs and symptoms of abuse or neglect and appropriate referral procedures.
Code of Ethics & Good Practice for Children’s Soccer
As with other sports, soccer contributes positively to the development of the individual. It is a vehicle of the mental, physical and emotional development, a development which is further enhanced if the under age player is guided by an informed, enlightened and caring coach/volunteer working within an acceptable ethical framework. It is most important to establish and maintain standards of ethical behavior especially in the coaching practices of young players. Key principles of responsibility and competence provide the core values of under age coaching and the fundamental framework of this document. This Code of Ethics & Good Practice is informed by the following underpinning principles:
Children’s involvement in soccer should be an enjoyable experience.
The safety of children should always be the paramount concern of all adults responsible for providing soccer opportunities at whatever level that adult maybe involved.
The appropriateness of the experience provided for children in soccer should be determined by and based on a child centered ethos which places the needs of the child at the centre of any activity taken.
Coaches/managers/volunteers should be properly recruited and managed with appropriate training made available to them.
All adults involved in soccer have a responsibility to be aware of child protection as an issue.
The Football Association of Ireland and Athenry Soccer Club recognizes and accepts that in all matters concerning Child Protection, the welfare and protection of our under age players is a priority. It is the policy of the Football Association of Ireland and Athenry Soccer Club to safeguard the welfare of our under age players by protecting them from physical, emotional and sexual harm. In response to recent legislation and Government Guidelines, the Association has amended its rules to include:
(b) Any act, statement, conduct or other matter which harms a child or children, or poses or may pose a risk of harm to a child or children, shall constitute behavior which is improper and brings the game into disrepute.
(c) Breaches will become a disciplinary offence.
Our under age coaches/volunteers play an important role in carrying out this policy as do the parents of children that participate in soccer. The co-operation of all is vital to this effort. This publication is intended to be a source of information and advice for players, coaches/volunteers, parents, spectators and clubs on current best and safe practice guidelines in sport. These guidelines are not only intended to create a safe environment for children, but also a safe environment in which coaches and volunteers can operate. Other relevant guidelines are:
Code of Ethics & Good Practice for Children’s Sport, The Irish Sports Council 2001
Our Duty To Care, Department of Health & Children, 2002
Children First, National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children 1999
Children in Soccer are entitled to:
Be treated with dignity, sensitivity and respect
Participate in soccer on an equal basis, appropriate to their ability and stage of development
Be happy, have fun and enjoy soccer
Make a complaint in an appropriate way and have it dealt with through a proper and effective complaints procedure
Be afforded appropriate confidentiality
Be listened to and to be believed
Have a voice in the running of the club
Children should also be encouraged to realize that they also have responsibilities to treat other children, fellow players, coaches and volunteers with the same degree of fairness and respect.
In this regard children should undertake to:
Play fairly, do their best and have fun
Make high standards of Fair Play the standard others want to follow
Respect opponents, they are not the enemy, they are partners in a sporting event
Shake hands before and after the match, whoever wins
Give opponents a hand if they are injured, put the ball out of play so they can get attention
Accept apologies from opponents when they are offered
Respect fellow team members and support them both when they do well and when things go wrong
Treat players from minority groups with the same respect you show other people
Be modest in victory and be gracious in defeat- “Be A Sport”
Approach the club Children’s Officer with any questions or concerns they might have.
Coaches and parents should encourage children to speak out and support them in doing so
Children should not:
Use abusive language, or argue with, the referee, officials, team mates or opponents
Use violence, use physical contact only when it is allowed within the rules
Tell lies about adults or other children
Take banned substances to improve performance
Keep secrets about any person who may have caused them harm
Coaches, parents and administrators all have an important role to play in promoting good practice in children’s sport. They should have as their first priority the children’s safety and enjoyment of the sport. “Sport for young people is about Fun and Participation, Best Effort and Fair Play in a Safe Environment”
Therefore we want children in soccer to have fun and develop skills in a safe and Fair Play environment. Ireland has adopted and is committed to the European Code of Sports Ethics which defines Fair Play as: “Much more than playing within the rules. It incorporates the concepts of friendship, respect for others and always playing within the right spirit. Fair Play is defined as a way of thinking, not just a way of behaving.” “It incorporates issues concerned with the elimination of cheating, gamesmanship, doping, violence (both physical and verbal), exploitation, unequal opportunities, excessive commercialism and corruption”(European Sports Charter and Code of Ethics Council of Europe, 1993).
Recent research would suggest that up to seventy per cent of children leave sport between the ages of eight and thirteen. One of the most common reasons given was that sport was no longer fun. Therefore we have to make every effort to ensure that we keep the fun in soccer.
Making sport fun.
In promoting “Sport for Fun” we should:
Encourage participation and fun
Promote the development of skills as opposed to winning at all costs
Emphasize and praise effort
Act as a good role model
Insist on Fair Play (take off offending players)
Be realistic with your expectations
Be aware of children’s feelings
Teach players to respect different cultures
Coaches and volunteers should also enjoy a sense of achievement and pleasure through their work with young people and should not be evaluated by performance or results of competition. They should enjoy the respect of, and be supported in their work by the sports club/organization and parents/guardians. Coaches, volunteers, parents, administrators and players all have a role in ensuring that the highest standards of practice are maintained in soccer.
Child Protection Responsibilities Accepted By Athenry Soccer Club
Mr. Gilbert McCarthy is the clubs designated person responsible for child protection matters.
The club has adopted clear and sound policies on confidentiality and will maintain all written evidence about child protection issues in a secure place. It will provide accurate information to the F.A.I. and Social Services, where appropriate, normally through the designated person. The club will provide training and annual refresher sessions for coaches and managers to ensure that their skills and expertise are up to date.
The Designated Person
Key responsibilities of this role are to:
Ensure that the F.A.I'S child protection procedures are followed within The Club.
Ensure that all volunteers are aware of these procedures.
Ensure that appropriate training and support is provided.
Decide whether to take further action about particular concerns.
Report to the F.A.I, Police & Social Services where appropriate over suspected cases of child abuse
Athenry Soccer Clubs Procedures
Any adult coach, manager or committee member could be approached by a child needing help or guidance. Likewise any of the above may be in a position to notice or be concerned about physical or sexual abuse or neglect. If a coach, manager or committee member is concerned about a child they must inform the designated person, unless the designated person is the cause of that concern. In which case they must inform the Chairman, Mr. Paul Mitchell. Information regarding the concerns must be recorded by coach, manager or committee member the on the same day. The recording must be a clear, precise and factual account of the observations and must be signed and dated. The designated person will decide whether the concerns should be referred to the F.A.I and/or Social Services. Concerns will not be discussed with the parents before the designated person has consulted with the F.A.I. and/or Social Services.
When to Be Concerned
Coaches, managers or committee members should take note if any of the following are observed:
Any injury that is not typical of the bumps and scrapes normally associated with children’s activities.
Regular occurrence of unexplained injuries.
Confused or conflicting explanations of how injuries were sustained.
Significant changes in behavior or attitude.
Sexual behavior which is unusually explicit or inappropriate to the child's age.
A recounting of an experience by a child in which they have been significantly harmed.
Dealing with a Disclosure
The following points give guidance on how coaches, managers or committee members should deal with disclosures made to them.
Do not promise confidentiality.
Explain who you will have to tell and why.
Listen to what is being said, without displaying shock or disbelief.
Accept what is being said.
Allow the child to talk freely, limit any questions to a minimum. Seek only to clarify and strictly avoid leading the child or adult who has made the approach by making suggestions or introducing your own ideas into what may have happened.
Never ask any questions such as "Did he do x to you?" instead use a minimum number of questions of the "Tell me what happened" type.
If it is an adult making the approach and it becomes obvious that they are making a significant allegation concerning either abuse or neglect, you may feel it appropriate to stop them and refer them to the designated person, unless she is the subject of the allegation, to avoid repetition of the details.
Be especially careful to distinguish between fact and opinion. Note also any obvious non-verbal behavior.
Reassure the child but do not make promises that you cannot keep.
Reassure the child that what has happened is not their fault.
Stress that the child has done the right thing by telling you.
Do not enter the child's account by condemning or criticizing the perpetrator.
By following correct procedures you are protecting yourself and the Athenry Soccer Club.
If any member of the coaching staff at any stage has concerns for their own safety, especially owing to having made a referral, they should immediately involve the designated person who will promptly involve the F.A.I., Social Services, and if deemed necessary the Police.
Responsibility to Report
Any person, who suspects that a child is being abused, or is at risk of abuse, has a responsibility to report their concerns to the Health Board or Gardai.
Persons unsure about whether or not certain behaviors are abusive and therefore reportable are advised that they can seek advice from the duty social worker in their local health board area where they will receive appropriate advice. In cases of emergency where a child appears to be at immediate and serious risk and the duty social worker is not contactable, call the Gardai. Under no circumstances should a child be left in a dangerous situation pending intervention by the Statutory Authorities. All clubs should have clear procedures for responding to reports or concerns relating to the safety and welfare of children. Coaches/volunteers, children and parents/guardians should be aware of how and to whom they report concerns within the club or organization.
For further information or advice see:
FAI Ireland Code of Ethics & Best Practice which is available on the Football Association website, www.fai.ie
FAI Code of Ethics Programme Co-coordinator / National Children’s Officer, 80 Merrion Square, Dublin 2. Tel. 087 9691422 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The following examples would constitute reasonable grounds for concern:
A specific indication from a child that (s)he was abused;
A statement from a person who witnessed abuse;
An illness, injury or behavior consistent with abuse;
A symptom which may not in itself be totally consistent with abuse, but which is supported by corroborative evidence of deliberate harm or negligence;consistent signs of neglect over a period of time.
A suspicion, which is not supported by any objective signs of abuse, would not constitute a reasonable suspicion, or reasonable grounds for concern.
In some situations, coaches/volunteers/parents may receive information about adults who are not involved with their own organization, but who are in contact with children through other organizations. It is important that these organizations should be made aware of any concerns. The statutory agencies will give advice on how this should be handled. Children First recommends that: If the designated person, on behalf of an organization, decides that reasonable grounds for reporting the incident or suspicion to the Health Board or An Garda Síochána do not exist, the individual who referred the matter should be given a clear written statement of the reasons why the club/organization is not taking action.
The coach/volunteer/parent should be advised that, if they remain concerned about the situation, they are free to consult with, or report to, the Health Board or an Garda Síochána themselves.
Standard Reporting Procedure
If child abuse is suspected or alleged, the following steps should be taken by professionals and members of the public who come into contact with children:
A report should be made to the Health Board in person, by phone or in writing. Each Health Board Area has a duty social worker who is available each day to meet with or talk on the telephone to persons wishing to report child protection concerns.
It is generally most helpful if personal contact is made with the duty social worker by the person who first witnessed or suspected the alleged child abuse.
In the event of an emergency or the non-availability of health board staff, a report may be made to the Gairdai at any Garda Station.
The Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act, 1998 makes provision for the protection from civil liability of persons who have reported child abuse ‘reasonably and in good faith’. This protection applies to organizations as well as individuals. It is considered therefore that, in the first instance, it is organizations (in this case leagues or clubs) that employ staff or use volunteers that should assume responsibility for reporting child abuse to the appropriate authorities.
In some cases of child abuse, the alleged perpetrator will be a child. In these situations, the child protection procedures should be adhered to for both the victim and alleged abuser, that is, it should be considered a child protection issue for both children. Work must be done to ensure that perpetrators of abuse, even when they are children themselves, take responsibility for their behavior and acknowledge that the behavior is unacceptable. It is important that clarity exists in respect of which behaviors constitute peer abuse, particularly child sexual abuse. Consultation with the health board should help to clarify the nature of any sexual behavior by children which gives rise to concern.
Bullying can be defined as repeated verbal, psychological or physical aggression conducted by an individual or group against others. It is behavior which is intentionally aggravating and intimidating, and occurs mainly in social environments such as schools, clubs and other organizations working with children. It includes behaviors such as teasing, taunting, threatening, and hitting or extortion behavior by one or more children against a victim. While the more extreme forms of bullying would be regarded as physical or emotional abuse and are reportable to Health Board or Gairdai, dealing with bullying behavior is normally the responsibility of the club where it is taking place.
Training for and coaches/volunteers should include modules on raising awareness and developing techniques for dealing with bullying. It is important to recognize the impact that bullying and discrimination can have in the lives of young people. Some people may not regard bullying and discrimination as child abuse because of the settings in which this often takes place and also because it is often other young people who are responsible for the behavior. It is recognized that bullying is an increasing problem. It is imperative that clubs should have in place a policy to deal with bullying, and that volunteers/coaches are aware of this policy and of procedural guidelines to deal with bullying. In situations where the incident is serious and where the behavior is regarded as potentially abusive, the club should consult the relevant Health Board with a view to drawing up an appropriate response such as a management plan (Children First 1999).
What is Bullying?
Bullying is often defined in terms of three components.
It must occur over time, rather than being a single aggressive act.
It involves an imbalance of power, the powerful attack the powerless.
It can be psychological, verbal, or physical in nature.
Types of Bullying
Child to child – includes physical aggression, verbal bullying, intimidation, damage to property, stealing property and isolation
Adult to child- this includes the use of repeated gestures or expressions of a threatening or intimidatory nature, or any comment intended to degrade a child
Child to adult- this includes the use of repeated gestures or expressions of a threatening or intimidatory nature by an individual or group of children
A UK study found that the most common experiences of bullying and discrimination reported by young people were at the hands of other young people. This included:
Being called names, insulted or verbally abused;
Being deliberately embarrassed and humiliated by other children;
Being made to feel different or like an outsider;
Being lied about;
Being physically assaulted or threatened with violence;
In the study, boys were most likely to experience physical bullying or threats have property stolen or damaged. Girls on the other hand, were more likely to be ignored or not spoken to. Bullying by adults was a less common experience however one in ten reported this. Of this type of bullying the most common reported experiences were:
Being deliberately embarrassed or humiliated;
Being unfairly treated or verbally abused;
Being ignored or not spoken to.
What makes a child more likely to be bullied?
Being different in any obvious way, e.g. having a physical disability, an unusual tone of voice, being timid or belonging to an ethnic or racial group.
Lacking confidence and not being able to mix. This can result in name calling, slagging or physical abuse.
Being very clever or good at what you do. Others may be jealous and you may get a cruel nickname “Lick”
Being very weak intellectually. Children can be very hurt and distressed by name calling such as “thick” “spa” “dummy”
Children from homes where there are problems are also vulnerable. Children can have an alcoholic or drug user in the family, a family member in jail or a relative with mental problems who sometimes acts in a bizarre manner in public.
An overprotective parent can also attract unwarranted attention.
Children whose hobbies are different and are not in line with main stream culture, anything that can be miss-interpreted by others as making them “snobby” or “different”.
Children’s physical appearance, prominent physical features (teeth eyes, ears lips nose), wearing different or old-fashioned clothes, being awkward or clumsy, too big or small or fat.
Sexual undertones. Children can be jeered about their perceived sexuality or their lack of experience of sexual matters.
Children who react easily. The child who gets upset easily and is quick to react to jeering.
Wearing glasses, teeth braces.
Response to Bullying
Vigilance is the most potent deterrent against bullying so that children and young people who bully will know that it will be dealt with, and the victims of bullying will have confidence in this.
Ensure adequate supervision at all times
There needs to be open discussion about bullying and a clear statement of its unacceptability. In confronting the bully or bullies in relation to specific incidents it is important to:
Be absolutely certain about the known facts
Confront the “bully/bullies” with the allegations
Make it clear that the behavior is unacceptable
See each “bully” separately if appropriate
Be specific about sanctions if the bullying does not stop
Follow up to check that the behavior has ceased
Record all instances of bullying and action taken.
Only serious instances of bullying behavior should be referred to the Health Board.
Reporting Child Abuse
It is important to remember that reporting suspected child abuse in good faith is not the same as making an accusation of abuse i.e. reporting does not mean accusing. Responsibility for the investigation of child abuse cases suspected or otherwise, lies with the Health Boards and the Gairdai. Responsibility for monitoring and co-coordinating the management of such cases also rests with the Health Boards.
It is not appropriate for individuals, clubs, or leagues to carry out internal investigations into cases where child abuse is suspected.
Any person who knows or suspects that a child is being harmed or is at risk or of being harmed has a duty to convey his/her concern to the local Health Board. It may be appropriate for a person to discuss concerns they have with another person in the club such as the Children’s Officer, or should the concern relate to this person, then the Chairperson of the club should be notified of the concerns. The type of discussions referred to above would most likely happen in cases where no specific allegation of child abuse has been made, but the concern is based on emotional behavior and/or physical indications of a particular child. Advice can also be sought from the relevant Health Board or the FAI National Children’s Officer. A senior member of the Club/League other than the Chairperson (who assumes employer responsibilities) should be nominated as a designated officer with responsibility for reporting suspected or actual child abuse to the Health Board.
A designated person reporting suspected or actual child abuse to the Statutory Authorities should first inform the family of their intention to make such a report, unless doing so would endanger the child or impede or undermine any subsequent investigation. Within a school, concerns relating to child abuse must be reported immediately to the Headmaster/Principal. In cases where an allegation has been made, then the matter has to be reported immediately to the relevant Statutory Authorities. Should allegations of a sexual nature be made against a coach/volunteer/official, he/she should be asked to stand aside pending an appropriate investigation. All concerns and allegations made should be carefully recorded. Confidentiality should be maintained at all stages.
In the case of a suspension, the coach/volunteer/official being suspended should be formally notified by senior personnel within the Club or League. It is advised that this task be undertaken by an approved committee member other than the Chairperson who takes responsibility for reporting to the Statutory Authorities. A coach/volunteer/official against whom an allegation of abuse has been made should be informed that this is not an accusation and that the procedures being undertaken are in accordance with statutory guidelines. He or she should be assured that all information will be dealt with in a sensitive and confidential manner within the Club or League and that he/she will be treated with fairness and respect. The coach/volunteer/official should be made aware of the general nature of any allegations made against him/her and of any allegation being made known to the Statutory Authorities. The coach/volunteer/official concerned should be afforded the opportunity to present a formal response to the allegation to senior personnel in the Club or League. His/her response should be noted and passed on to the Health Board personnel. From this point onwards the matter should only be dealt with by the Statutory Authorities. In the case of an allegation of child sexual abuse, it may be necessary to withhold the name of the child and the precise details of the allegation, in the interest of confidentiality and child protection.
It is not always easy to accept that children can be deliberately neglected or harmed.
The possibility that parents, who appear to love their children, or that committed workers/volunteers/coaches who are colleagues and friends, could hurt the children in their care is hard to take. Unfortunately, reluctance to think badly of people or lack of understanding and knowledge about abuse can lead to resistance in hearing, recognizing and dealing with it.
Children very rarely tell that they are being abused, for a number of reasons:
They may have been bribed or blackmailed not to tell.
They may be very frightened of the abuser.
They may be afraid of being blamed or punished, or excluded from the organization.
They may be afraid of getting the abuser into trouble.
Children with learning disabilities may not fully comprehend what is happening.
Children who are being abused often feel that they have tried to tell someone else – it must be remembered that they may have different ways of communicating information and workers/volunteers/coaches must be alert and sensitive to this.
Stages in recognizing child abuse
Child abuse might come to light because a child tells someone, or because someone sees it happening. However, this does not always happen, and it is often a question of someone feeling uneasy and concerned about a child, and needing to find out more. There are roughly three stages in recognizing child abuse to the point where a worker/volunteer/coach knows that action must be taken. These are:
Considering the possibility – if a child has a mark, bruise or injury for which there is no reasonable explanation, or if she or he is behaving unusually or seems fearful or anxious in the presence of anybody.
Looking out for signs – a cluster of signs is likely to be more indicative of abuse than a single one. Sometimes children will hint or directly tell that they are being harmed – these disclosures should always be listened to and the information accepted as true in the first instance (See below for guidance on this).
Recording the information – observations about suspected child abuse should be recorded with dates, times and any other relevant information about the incident or behavior. Child abuse can be difficult to recognize and can take many different forms.
Coaches/volunteers should always be alert to the possibility of abuse. However, it important to remember that no one sign should be seen as certain evidence of abuse, and there may be other explanations for it. Coaches/volunteers who are suspicious about child abuse can seek advice from the club children’s officer or the local Health Board duty social worker. Advice can also be sought from the FAI’s National Children’s Officer.
Response to a Child reporting abuse
Deal with any allegation of abuse in a sensitive and competent manner through listening to and facilitating the child to tell about the problem.
Stay calm and do not show any extreme reaction to what the child is saying and take it seriously. It should be understood that the child has decided to tell about something that is very important and has taken a risk in doing so. The experience of telling should be a positive one so that the child will not mind talking to those involved in the investigation.
Permit the child to speak without interruption, accepting what is said.
The child should not be questioned unless the nature of what he/she is saying is unclear.
Leading questions should be avoided. Open, non-specific questions should be used such as “Can you explain to me what you meant by that”
Reassure the child that he/she was right to tell, and that he/she will be helped.
Alleviate feeling of guilt and isolation, while passing no judgment on the person against whom the allegation is made. False promises should not be made such as saying no-one else will be told. Indicate what should happen next, such as informing parents, Club Children’s Officer, reporting to statutory authority etc.
Any and all consultations with others should be entirely confidential and should not involve investigative procedures. Write a detailed account of any discussion regarding alleged or suspected abuse, as soon as possible after the discussion has taken place. In the event of a child disclosing, make a note of the actual phraseology/words used by the child. Do not trivialize child abuse issues or trivialize or exaggerate what the child has told you.
Athenry Soccer Club, through confirming this Policy Document, has indicated its determination to ensure that children and young people can participate in all forms of football activity and do so with their safety being of paramount importance.
Much of this document has been adapted from the Football Association of Irelands Code of Ethics& Good Practice. This document and related material is available on their website www.fai.ie.
Any abuse of the above code by a coach, player or parent must be reported to the Athenry Soccer club committee immediately and to the club Child Safety Officer where appropriate. A form may be got at reception in the club grounds at Moonbaun or from any committee member. It must be then completed and immediately given to Athenry Soccer Club committee or club Child Safety Officer. All matters relating to the above will be dealt with the by any of the following:
Athenry Soccer Club Committee
Athenry Soccer Club Committee and Club Child Safety Officer
Athenry Soccer Club Disciplinary Committee and Club Child Safety Officer
Contact Numbers for any Incidents or Reports
Athenry Football Club: 091-875939