Two kindergartens in Hong Kong have pledged to follow new “child protection standards” set by child protection organization Plan International Hong Kong to protect children from abuse.
The 20 standards came as cases of abuse at the Mong Kok residential children’s home under the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children have come to light since December last year, involving 40 victims.
34 staff members were arrested, 27 of whom were prosecuted. One of the former staff, Barbara Heung Wing-shan, 46, was sentenced last Wednesday to four months in prison after pleading guilty to abuse by caregivers.
The scandal also led the Department of Social Welfare to deduct funds from the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children of HK$1.8 million.
“The situation is alarming and reveals the absence of relevant policy to prevent child abuse in child-related organisations,” read Plan’s statement.
The NGO therefore established a “child safeguarding policy”, which it referred to relevant laws and guidelines overseas, as there is no such official guideline in Hong Kong. It covers four dimensions, namely “Policy”, “Procedure”, “People and Culture” and “Accountability”.
The 20 Standards policy spelled out inappropriate behavior towards children and required that the organization have clear records of suspected cases of child abuse.
The policy also proposed a reporting mechanism, which allows staff members to report suspected cases of child abuse without any concerns.
The policy was initially to be implemented in ten kindergartens in Hong Kong and would be rolled out to all kindergartens in the city.
Plan Chief Executive Kanie Siu Mei-kuen said: “The mission of the child protection policy is to minimize the risk of harm.
“As a child-serving organization, we are obligated to take all steps morally and legally possible to create a safe environment for them, to keep children away from any potential harm or abuse caused by the organization, and to take appropriate action in response to threats to the safety of children within the organization,” she said.
She added that the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children had been asked to establish its regulations in accordance with the charter, but the society had yet to respond.
Two kindergartens under the Five District Business Welfare Association – Five Districts Business Welfare Association Cheung Chuk Shan Nursery School/Kindergarten in Diamond Hill and Five Districts Business Welfare Association Nursery School/Kindergarten in Wong Tai Sin, had taken the initiative and put in place their child protection measures based on the 20 standards and with the help of Plan.
Plan went on to say that the care home child abuse offense of “failure to protect” had yet to be legislated.
Speaking at the Politics press conference via video call yesterday, welfare sector lawmaker Tik Chi-yuen said he believed no lawmakers would object to legislating the offense of “protection defect” or on a mandatory reporting mechanism.
He added that parents also play an important role in child abuse issues, and he suggested establishing a child protection charter for parents.