Guidelines for the Prevention of Violence Against Children

The present Guidelines comprise the experience gained by The Gavroche Association team in their everyday work on the protection of children from violence.
These Guidelines are to assist social and educational workers in the awareness of the latest and approved practices for the prevention of violence, especially sexual violence against children.
The main objectives set by Management team are:
1. To provide psychologists and educators from schools, kindergartens and children's homes with a set of training models and methodology to assist them in their work on prevention of violence against children.
2. To familiarize psychologists and educators with the norms of appropriate behavior and response procedures should there arise any problems concerning child protection in schools, kindergartens and children's homes.
3. To provide employers from the fields of education, fostering and social work with children with an approved practice for recruiting personnel and working with volunteers and donation-givers to ensure maximum child protection.
The Guidelines consist of an Introduction, Theoretical rationale, Methodology for conducting sessions, Training models for group sessions on selected topics, Practice for child protection in schools, kindergartens and specialized institutions, Presentation of the Gavroche Association team, Bibliography, the Contents and Supplements.

1. The Introduction sets forth the objectives and priorities of the Guidelines for the Prevention of Violence. It explains the demand for developing these Guidelines, substantiated by citing different researches on the problem of child abuse worldwide, and particularly in Bulgaria. The results of the studies suggested that there was no unified methodology and practice, focusing on the prevention of sexual violence against children. This deficit is the reason the Gavroche Association team set out to develop practical Guidelines.
2. In order to facilitate users of the Guidelines and to provide further information we have set up a theoretical framework on the issue of violence by supplying brief introductions of the underlying topics on violence prevention:

   - the profile of a child abuser;
   - common misconceptions associated with the problem: many people have wrong perceptions about child abuse, hence a number of errors in dealing with victims and in allowing  violence against children;
  - characteristics of the main types of violence (physical, emotional, sexual, neglect), impact on children and their development, which any individual working with children should be aware of;
   - an integral part of Guidelines is dedicated to recognizing the signs of potential violence.
3. The Methodology for conducting sessions includes:

   - the essence of group sessions with children;
   - practical guidelines on establishing the right working environment within a group and how to successfully achieve all set objectives;
   -  key methods for group work;
   - how to boost motivation for active participation in sessions and ways to overcome the problems associated with lack of motivation;
   - advantages of group work over individual work.
The Methodology section further describes the stages of group work in step-by-step activities: preparation, introductory phase of the session, actual work within the group and final stage. There are also suggestions as to how to maintain relationships after the final stage, which is prerequisite for the sustainability of end results. This part of the Guidelines is especially useful for those conducting group work with children as it explains the specifics of this method when applied to children.
4. Training models for group sessions is the most practically oriented section of the Guidelines, providing concrete steps to conduct topical group sessions with children aged 5 to 18 years. There are 22 Training models proposed on the following topics:

  - interpersonal relationships: trust, insults, affection, anger, aggression, etc.;
  - children's statutory rights and children's rights on the Internet;
  - violence:  types of violence, profile of the child abuser, challenging behavior, contrasting between "good touches" and "bad touches", nature of sexual violence, prostitution, the ability to say "No";
  - health education: prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, definition and development of female and male genitalia, safe sex.
All Training models suggest practical games and situational games that could ensure active participation of all children. For the purpose of achieving the objectives defined for each models, the cognitive abilities and the imagination of children are involved. Texts are complemented with figures and diagrams to meet the age necessity of the child for visualization. The role-playing games proposed are a good opportunity for emotional empathy when dealing with a specific topic,  and can help develop social competence in children and the ability to analyze a problem from different perspectives.
5. Practice for children protection in schools, kindergartens and specialized institutions. This part of the Guidelines proposed is aimed at either people working directly with children or their employers. It offers advice on the selection and evaluation of job applicants for the work with children. The guidelines suggested are still optional, yet their implementation can significantly improve the overall quality of work with children and can contribute to a more successful prevention of violence. We are also committed to preparing an individual performance appraisal for the first three months (probation period) of approved candidates. The appraisal will reflect the impressions each candidate has left in terms of indicators of behavior, relationships with children, early detection and vigilance for any signs of conflict and propensity for violence. Referral to specialized training and counseling can be provided if necessary.
An innovative solution proposed in the Practice is the introduction of  a Coordinator in Child Protection, who is a person involved directly with the prevention and protection of children in kindergartens, schools or specialized institutions. The idea was inspired by the foreign exchange of Gavroche team members who underwent different training courses, and is fully in line with European practices on child protection.
The Practice section also contains recommendations for the work with volunteers and donation-givers, and procedures for selection and evaluation to avoid future problems and conflicts, which can in turn give rise to acts of violence.
Special attention is placed on response procedures in the event of any information of violence against children. In this regard, training in child protection has been seen as an integral part of the training in working with children. As a formal/ informal reliability test of the people involved in the work with children, including volunteers, there are safety declarations and codes, available in the Guidelines. Their content stresses mainly on moral issues. The signing of these safety declarations and codes is meant to raise awareness to the problem of respecting children's rights, exercising self-discipline and the importance of personal commitment to preventing all types of violence. The Safety of Children Code differs from the Code of Ethics of those working with children but is build on it and is to be considered as the basic guide for the conduct of employees.
6. The Guidelines also address the issue of the response procedures once child sexual abuse has been suspected or detected. Everyone working with children ought to be aware of their primary intervention role in this case: they should be able to control their own emotions and know how to adjust their behavior before the child, so that they can offer support and comprehend the reality of the abuse. Certain communication rules for such situations are outlined as well as steps to be followed right after the moment of sharing.

7. The Who We Are section, as in any guidelines or similar research papers, gives a summary of who its authors are, their team and their qualifications.

8. The closing section contains a list of all literature and information sources referred to in the preparation of these Guidelines. The detailed list can be useful to anyone wishing to further their knowledge and experience in the field of prevention of child abuse, the problem of violence and the related personal and social implications.

The writing of these Guidelines has aimed at imparting the Practice of working with children, raising further awareness of its methodological and applicable aspects with the highest goal in mind to ensure better safety of children.