Regional Co-ordinating Offices :Full Correspondence to BK Regional Offices
1st December 2002
I have been informed by the BKSWU International Co-ordinating Office in London that Regional offices such as you have since February 2001 been involved in the implementation of child protection policies in the BK centres of your respective regions. Please send me the following information for your region:
1. Which centres have formally implemented a policy and the date that they did so.
2. Which centres have not yet formally done so and when they are expecting to do such.
3. What monitoring and reporting procedures you have in place between yourself as the regional office and the various centres in your region.
What monitoring and reporting procedures there are between yourself as the regional office and either Madhuban or the International Co-ordinating Office.
Your own centre’s child protection policy and the date it was implemented.
I await your advises.
- Regional Co-ordinating Office, 78 Alt Street, Ashfield, Sydney, NSW 2131, AUSTRALIA firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.brahmakumaris.com.au
- Regional Co-ordinating Office, Germaine Burchard,589 Sao Paulo, 05002-062 , BRAZIL email@example.com http://www.bkumaris.com.br
- Regional Co-ordinating Office, Global Museum, Maua Close, off Parklands Road, Westlands, P.O Box 12349, Nairobi, Kenya firstname.lastname@example.org
- Regional Co-ordinating Office, Brahma Kumaris, 2 Gospitalnaya Ploscha build.1, Moscow 111020, Russia email@example.com
- Regional Co-ordinating Office, Global Harmony House, 46 S. Middle Neck Road, Great Neck , NY 11021, USA newyork@BKWSU.com
- Regional Co-ordinating Office, Global Co-operation House, 65Pound Lane, London NW10 2HH london@BKWSU.com
- Regional Co-ordinating Office, World Headquarters, Post Box No 2, Mount Abu Rajasthan 307501, India firstname.lastname@example.org
- Regional Co-ordinating Office, Brahma Kumaris, Pandav Bhawan, 25 New Rohtak Road, New Delhi 110005, India email@example.com
Mass Mailings to Raja Yoga Centres around the world
Attention: Centre In Charge and BK Teachers,
Date: 15th November 2002
Do you have an appropriate child protection policy which all of your fellow BKs who work with children in your centre are aware of and adhere to?
If you do not I strongly recommend that you get advice from appropriate agencies in your country and from your senior bk centre. The London centre has a policy which you can use as a guideline.
I have been sufficiently dismayed with the BKSU’s record in this regard that I am considering starting a register of those centres who fail to follow proper child protection policies, and initiating a fund to help anyone in the future who suffers as a result of any failure on the part of a Raja Yoga centre or teacher to apply such policies. The fund would provide for legal recourse, and independent counselling. These are in their early stages of planning so I hope that you will use the intervening time to educate yourself and your centre members if necessary.
I enclose a summarised account of correspondence between myself and senior administrators of your institution in London and Madhuban, which I hope will impress upon you the seriousness of this matter.
I have out of necessity had to summarise quite a lengthy body of correspondence, but have only edited out victim’s names and trivial irrelevancies –courtesies and such like. However please do note that this is not a full record of all documents pertaining to these matters and so I would ask you not to rush to judgement of any and all individuals concerned. I have only printed the names of individuals who were writing to me not on their own behalf but in an official capacity as representatives of your institution. Any judgements implied or stated in my correspondence is not of them as individuals but rather is aimed at the institution as a whole. With an organisation that is so individually led, it is impossible to point out it’s vulnerabilities without appearing to attack the particular leaders. If this is what you conclude I intend, that is a fault of my communication skills for which I apologise. What I want is institutional accountability, openness and development, rather than to portray any particular BK individuals in a certain light.
In a similar vein I would contend that speculating on my motives, vices, virtues etc is as much an irrelevancy as speculating on this or that senior teacher. It is irrelevant to me if you choose to view me as I am a fallen Brahmin, a "Shudra", a co-operative soul or an instrument of a perfect drama or anything else. Be my guest. Whatever you think about me you will still then have to reflect upon the information I have provided and judge its many implications on their own merit and ultimately decide if you are going to adopt a formal child protection policy or not.
I would contend to you that this should not be about me or anyone else in the correspondence, but rather about your most vulnerable students and your obligation to protect their interests. Not their Raja Yoga interests, but their psychological, sexual and physical interests separate to their identity as Brahmins. They cannot possibly choose to be Brahmins in the same way that a mature adult does and I would suggest that they should be treated as children first, and brahmins second.
I would like to state for the record that I am not a Raja Yogi, and do not share your beliefs. I was a teacher and student at the London centre for over 14 years but left in 1989. I left on good terms and I still consider myself sympathetic to and respectful of your path, although as I say I no longer subscribe to it’s beliefs. I believe I have never been anything less than a good friend to your organisation. And I believe that if this was ever true it was never more so than today.
I wish you well and sincerely hope that in receiving these writings you will view them as matters of important information and of potential benefit and institutional development and as I say from a friend, albeit in some unusual and awkward circumstances.
19th December 2003
If you are a centre which takes children or young people under the age of 18 to India you must presumably have verified that the centres to which you take your children have child protection policies adequate and appropriate to the policies you follow in your native country.
To fulfil this requirement you will necessarily have a copy of Madhuban’s, Delhi’s or Mumbhai’s etc policy document.
I invite you and request that you email me a copy of such.
If you are not a centre which takes minors to India I invite you to verify that you have a child protection policy in your national centres and to email me a copy of that document.
350 plus BK Centres received the above.
BKWSU UK Child Protection Policy Statement
BRAHMA KUMARIS WORLD SPIRITUAL UNIVERSITY (UK)
CHILD PROTECTION POLICY STATEMENT
The Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (UK) (the "BKWSU"), which has been a registered charity since 1975, offers a variety of courses, lectures, seminars, programmes and other activities in religious and spiritual education for public participation. The BKWSU recognises that members of the public attending its activities include young people who, by virtue of their age, are in need of special care and protection to ensure that no harm comes to them. This document serves as a statement of the BKWSU's policy and practice in this regard as implemented and developed over the years.
Young people are able to benefit greatly from their participation in BKWSU activities, particularly with regard to their personal, social, emotional and spiritual development. Both they and their parents or guardians have come to place considerable trust in the BKWSU and its personnel and overwhelmingly history has shown this trust to be well founded. Nevertheless, the BKWSU remains attentive and vigilant with regard to children's interests, ensuring that it continues to follow best practices that result in children and parents having confidence in and placing trust in its ability to provide a safe, wholesome and nurturing environment. The BKWSU accordingly wishes to formalise procedures designed to ensure this and to deal with any weaknesses or breaches of such procedures.
The BKWSU was established in the spirit of service to humanity in order to create an environment that helps all individuals to fulfil their potential thereby improving the quality of life for all. To this end it conducts spiritual, religious and educational courses and programmes that empower and inspire individuals to better themselves on all levels. As such, the BKWSU is committed to the development, safety and well being of all its students and other participants in its activities. In particular, the BKWSU is committed to taking all appropriate measures to ensure that while participating in its activities, all children and youth ( under the age of 18 ) are protected from abuse, exploitation or neglect and are appropriately safeguarded and supervised.
The BKWSU seeks to provide a safe and caring environment for its child participants and a family atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding in which they are protected from neglect, exploitation and abuse regardless of culture, age, gender, race, national or social or linguistic origin, religion or disability. These are inherent to human dignity and the harmonious development of every child.
This Policy Statement aims to set out the procedures necessary to safeguard the interests of all children and adults involved in BKWSU activities for or with children. It seeks to promote a safe, healthy and positive approach to these issues and to set standards against which progress can be measured. This Statement also seeks to ensure, through its distribution, that all relevant BKWSU personnel involved with children are fully aware of different types of abuse and know what to do in the event of any incident that may involve or relate to child abuse.. Training will be provided by professionals not connected with the BKWSU.
The paramount concern is the welfare of the child and the principles and practices described below have been formulated to serve the best interests of the child according to the various circumstances involved. In giving priority to the overall well being and protection of children, the BKWSU believes that, above all, children should be respected as human beings and individuals with recognised rights and needs.
1 In all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration.
2 Children have the right to develop to their fullest potential in every respect, including physically, mentally, spiritually, morally and socially.
3 Appropriate educational activities will foster the overall development of children, including that of their personality, talents and abilities.
4 All children have rights without discrimination of any kind, for example on grounds of ethnicity, religion, culture, language, gender, disability or social or national origin.
5 Children should be respected and listened to, and their views given due consideration, in accordance with their age, maturity and cognitive ability.
6 Due consideration should be taken of the traditions and cultural values of each child and his or her family.
7 The rights and responsibilities of a child's parents and family should be respected.
8 While anyone under the age of 18 is a young person or child and is potentially vulnerable, maturity and attitudes vary greatly and everyone has the right to protection from abuse whatever his or her age.
9 The best interests of the child may require that the BKWSU communicates or works in partnership with the child's home, school and community and/or makes use of and fully cooperates with social service organisations and police authorities.
10 Suspicions or allegations of any incident that need investigating should be handled tactfully and sensitively by people well qualified and officially appointed to do so. In endeavouring to establish the truth, evidence should be gathered and weighed carefully, avoiding premature conclusions and seeking to pre-empt wrongful accusations, which can be very damaging and hurtful.
Forms of Abuse
A Abuse is caused not only by those who actually perpetrate it but also by those who fail to prevent it or who condone, minimise or tolerate it.
B Physical abuse occurs where adults or other children deliberately inflict injuries on a child or knowingly do not prevent such injuries.
C Emotional abuse occurs when adults fail to show due care and attention or threaten, use sarcasm, taunt or shout at a child causing him or her to lose self confidence or self esteem or become nervous or withdrawn. It may also take place when an adult repeatedly ignores or fails to respond to a child's efforts or places the child under undue pressure to meet unrealistically high standards or expectations.
D Sexual abuse occurs when adults use children to fulfil their own sexual needs or indicate that sexual favours can help, or refusals hinder, a child's prospects. Such abuse may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at pornographic material or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.
E Abuse of trust takes place where a child is indoctrinated with attitudes, which are unacceptable, to the child's family or guardian or if an adult misuses his or her power over a child.
F Neglect takes place when adults fail to meet a child's essential needs for clothing, food, shelter, wamth and medical care or leave a child without proper supervision or place him or her at risk of injury. It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child's basic emotional needs.
Identification of Abuse
1 While it may be the case that a child's disturbed behaviour or an injury may suggest that a problem may exist, in many instances signs of abuse may not be discernible. Nevertheless, an experienced adult may sense that something is wrong and that extra vigilance, or investigation, is called for. In other situations, apparent indicators of abuse may have other causes, or involve other factors, and so should not be taken as proof of abuse.
2 The following list of some possible indicators of abuse is purely indicative and can never be, and should not be taken to be, all inclusive.
3 Bruises or other injuries may sometimes be clearly visible or a child may show distress, but often victims learn to conceal or disguise signs of abuse with the result that it is not always obvious.
4 Uncharacteristic changes in a child's behaviour, attitude or commitment, or an inappropriate desire for closeness and attachment to an adult, may be indicative that there is something wrong.
5 Fear of particular adults (especially those with whom a comfortable relationship should be the norm) may be a cause for concern.
6 A child who begins to appear unkempt, is reluctant to return home, is always alone or doesn't socialise with peers may also need attention or extra vigilance.
Dealing with Possible Abuse
Dealing with abuse is seldom a straightforward or clear-cut matter. Whatever the circumstances, decisions and conclusions will always need to be carefully considered.
1 It is not the responsibility of those working with children to decide that child abuse is occurring but it is their responsibility to refer any such concerns to the BKWSU's Children's Officer. The volunteer's role is to report, NOT to investigate. In particular, the child should not be questioned as this may lead to legal complications at a later date.
2 Any allegations of abuse made by a child should be responded to and they, and any accidental injury, hurt or distress caused to a child, promptly noted and reported to the Children's Officer. Although a child may find it difficult to express this, should a child feel discomfort, or abused or neglected, it is their responsibility to communicate this without exaggeration or embellishment. To help a child in this regard, in communicating with the child, whatever is said should be taken seriously, but non-judgmentally, while going at a pace that is comfortable for the child.
3 If abuse is suspected or has been alleged, the highest degree of discretion and confidentiality should be exercised, both for a person making any accusation and the person(s) against whom allegations have been made or by whom abuse is suspected.
4 In considering a possible instance of abuse, poor teaching practice should be distinguished from abuse. In cases where poor teaching practice is identified, the BKWSU will ensure that further training and monitoring will be carried out for any person(s) against whom allegations have been made or by whom abuse is suspected.
5 The BKWSU does not seek to protect staff, students or volunteers at the expense of a child's potential welfare.
The Children's Officer
1 The BKWSU will designate one or more Children's Officers (the "Children's Officer") who will be responsible for the implementation of this policy.
2 The Children's Officer will also be responsible for monitoring this policy and amending it as required to make it more effective and ensure compliance with relevant legislation.
3 The Children's Officer will ensure that, before they are involved with children's activities, all helpers complete a volunteer reference form with their personal details and declare that they have not been convicted of child abuse. Volunteers will be informed that they can only work with children subject to a satisfactory police check. The exemption to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act applies to these checks and all "spent" convictions must be disclosed for the purposes of applying to do voluntary work with children under the care and supervision of the BKWSU.
4 The Children's Officer will be responsible for monitoring volunteers during a three-month probationary period, including direct observation of the volunteer with the children, explanation of health and safety regulations, and during which time the volunteer will be required to undergo child protection training delivered by an external specialist trainer.
5 The Children's Officer will be responsible for initiating action where any abuse is suspected or alleged, keeping confidential all information on any matters referred to him or her but making such information available to the BKWSU's Trustees, the social services or police as necessary, while also being mindful of possible remedies and/or ramifications. It is the duty of the Children's Officer to refer any concerns to parents, social services or police as appropriate as well as to the Trustees of the BKWSU.
Code of Practice and Behaviour
This Code of Practice and Behaviour will apply to all volunteers who have contact with children under the age of 18 during the course of any activities provided by the BKWSU in the UK, including the Children's Teachers Team at Global Cooperation House (London), teachers and volunteers facilitating activities and providing accommodation at the Global Retreat Centre (Oxford), and teachers and volunteers accompanying children on field trips to and from the World Headquarters of the Brahma Kumaris in Mt Abu (India).
1 Be publicly open in working with children and ensure that situations do not arise in which an individual child is alone, completely unobserved, with an adult.
2 Avoid unnecessary harshness or criticism and ensure that children do not cause harm to each other in any form. Be alert for bullying tactics.
3 Where correction of a child's behaviour is deemed necessary, there should be no physical or emotional punishment for misbehaviour for any reason whatsoever. In cases where correction is necessary, it should always be made clear to the child that it is his or her behaviour that is not acceptable and not the person himself or herself.
4 Respect children's evolving capacities while also remembering that their path to adulthood will inevitably be gradual. Ensure that all activities undertaken are compatible with the age, abilities, maturity and potential of the relevant child, paying due respect and attention to the situation of children with disabilities and any cultural, religious or social diversity.
5 Encourage children to take responsibility for their own behaviour, respect the rights of others, develop concern for their own safety and protection and be honest, accurate and open in their communication.
6 While maintaining a high standard of personal behaviour and appearance, remember that the best of intentions can be misinterpreted.
7 Should any physical contact be necessary, this should be carried out openly and not in conflict with any parental instructions in this regard. Physical contact should be avoided and children should discouraged from cuddling volunteers or sitting on their laps, etc.
8 Do not allow any suspicion, allegation or disclosure of abuse to go unreported, but do not jump to conclusions without being sure of all the facts and circumstances. Write down the relevant facts, dates and observations as soon as possible. Do not rush into unconsidered action. Although a pattern of behaviour may bring a child to your attention (for example, where an outgoing child becomes unusually withdrawn) and may be indicative of abuse, do not investigate it yourself (unless specifically asked to do so by the Children's Officer) but refer the matter on to the Children's Officer.
9 Children under 12 years of age are to be brought to the children's class and collected by their parents and supervised at all times by at least two adults. It should be noted that the children's parents are normally involved in other on-site activities at the same time. In cases where this is not so, parents should leave precise details as to where they can be contacted in case of emergency. Older children must wait in the Reception area until they are taken to their classroom by their teacher. All children's classes should have two teachers. When classes are over children are handed over to their parents. In cases where parents are members of the 3KWSU and stay on the premises to do voluntary work or carry out other activities, the parents are responsible for their children outside official class hours.
10 All doors used for children's activities must have glass panels. Where this is not possible, then doors should be kept open.
11 Only those who have been regularly involved with the BKWSU and are known to one or more of its senior personnel for at least three years may work with children and young people. They must complete a Volunteer Reference Form and be approved by the Children's Officer who will also check the volunteer's police clearance form before giving such approval. Volunteers will also be subject to a three-month probationary period, during which time they are expected to be observed and to undergo any relevant training deemed necessary by the BKWSU.
12 The safety of the children must take priority over everything else. All UK centres of the BKWSU are accessible to members of the public and teachers must ensure that in no circumstances can anyone have close access to a child and be alone with him or her for whatever reason.
13 Matters relating to children's safety and behaviour are to be discussed regularly at meetings of the Children's Teachers Team and, where necessary, raised by the Children's Officer with senior personnel and Trustees of the BKWSU. Any resultant directives are to be promptly implemented by the Children's Teachers Team.
14 Where a child is involved in regular activities provided by the BKWSU, the presence of the child should be endorsed in writing by the parents or guardian.
15 In cases where children are involved in activities that require travel from one place to another, it is the responsibility of the parents to ensure that children have adequate travel and health insurance. While travelling, teachers and other volunteer helpers will assume the role of parent and will take appropriate action to ensure that children are supervised at all times and are not exposed to any risk that will unduly cause them physical or emotional harm.
16 Where children unaccompanied by their parents need to be accommodated for one or more nights at any of the BKWSU premises, this will be done with the written permission of the child's parents or guardians. In cases where young or disabled children are involved, parents will also give written permission for a named volunteer to assist the child with any personal or intimate care tasks deemed necessary for the well-being and comfort of the child. The BKWSU will always ensure that children and young people are accommodated in single beds and, where rooms are shared, with other children or young people of the same gender.
17 The BKWSU will ensure that where unaccompanied children are in overnight accommodation on any of its premises that adequate provision is made to protect the safety of the child, and to provide the child with nourishment and warmth.
18 Children under the age of seven should not be separated from their parents overnight.
Global Co-operation House
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