The Australian Childhood Foundation has conducted a factor analysis of the contributing factors within organisations that lead to children and young people not being adequately protected from abuse and exploitation. This research has identified four key organisational vulnerabilities described in the following diagram.
Typically, abuse by volunteers or employees of organisations involves the presence of at least two of the identified risk factors. In these circumstances, the whole of the organisation is exposed for not adequately exercising its duty of care to the children and young people it services or supports.
Vulnerability 1. Lack of awareness.
Managers, employees and volunteers can lack awareness about the prevalence of abuse within organisations. As a consequence, they underestimate the impact of abuse on children and young people. It can lead to them ignoring the early warning signs of abuse and exploitation. They can engage in false optimism, preferring to believe that if the abuse is occurring, it will stop of its own accord. Critically, individuals do not feel responsible for creating and maintaining protective practices with their organisations.
Vulnerability 2. Lack of knowledge.
Managers, employees and volunteers can lack the knowledge about the ways in which abuse occurs within organisations. A lack of knowledge complicates and creates barriers to individuals taking action to protect children when required. It can lead to individuals not understanding how abuse is kept secret and the truth manipulated by adults. They do not know how to recognise the manifestations of abuse. Individuals do not understand what is expected of them.
Vulnerability 3. Lack of confidence.
A lack of confidence in managers, employees and volunteers increases personal discomfort in relation to the protection of children and young people from abuse and exploitation. It introduces uncertainty in decision making about specific children. Individuals feel isolated from organisational support and resources. Critically, they may fail to adhere to organisational policies and procedures.
Vulnerability 4. Lack of processes and support.
A lack of organisational processes and support does not create or maintain a culture about protecting children. It leads to a lack of clarity about roles and individual conduct in relation to children. As a result, managers, employees and volunteers may defer to others to make decisions. They are confused about the procedures to follow. It promotes a culture of complacency and uncertainty.