Policy volunteer work with children


The allocation of volunteers in projects with children, especially in orphanages, is sensitive. This is due to potential unexpected problems in the requesting side (children and partner organisations) as well as in the offering side (volunteers). For this reason, SIW offers no projects with children, where a night shelter falls outside of the parents’ house, family or foster family, including orphanages. However, we do offer projects with vulnerable children, at day centres. SIW has created a policy for vulnerable children at day shelters, in order to reduce the risk of complications between the children, the volunteers, the projects and SIW.

The interest of the children comes first!
The SIW policy is based on the guidelines from Better Care Network (BCN). BCN describes the problem as follows:

“The Better Care Network is committed to better care for children. This means that children must grow up with their parents and within their community, as long as possible. Therefore, help must be provided to support vulnerable families. Sending volunteers to a children’s home is in conflict with the vision of better care for children, as recorded in the international guidelines. However, the reality is that many volunteers, without relevant qualifications, work with vulnerable children for short periods. For this reason, the Better Care Network Netherlands has created the guidelines below.”

What is understood within the term vulnerable children?

Better Care Network describes the categories where vulnerable children fall in:

  • Children living in extreme poverty
  • Street children – children in contact with the policy or justice
  • Children as victims of traffickers
  • Children with mental or physical disorders
  • Vulnerability as a result of HIV/AIDS
  • Children in emergency situations
  • Children from labour migrants / refugees
  • Children in threatening family situations
  • Children soldiers
  • Children with learning and behaviour disorders

SIW and BCN do not consider all the projects with children “vulnerable”. An example is the education projects. In those projects the guidelines stated below are not valid. However, in all children projects the volunteer needs to present a Certificate of Good Conduct.

The following SIW guidelines are structured according to the BCN guidelines. These guidelines must be followed. Exceptions are possible, if they are based on a thorough motivation and are discussed with the Coordinator Outgoing Placements.

SIW guidelines

Beware of the importance of attachment with children

SIW will place volunteers in projects with vulnerable children in case the project lasts a minimum of 2 months, preferably longer.

Providing educated and experienced volunteers

SIW sets as a requirement that the volunteer is following or has completed a relevant study; he/she has experience within a current job or in a previous job. Therefore working with children was part of the studies or the job.  Every volunteer needs to have a Certificate of Good Conduct. Volunteers and local professionals work together and exchange experiences. When doubts occur between the two, the coordinator is called upon.

Providing a code of conduct and policy for working with children

SIW has signed the Child Protection Code (CPC). The guidelines in the CPC are attached to the contracts in projects with vulnerable children. The region specialists and mentors are in possession of this Code of Conduct.

Providing good mentorship during the volunteers work

All volunteers have a contact person within SIW and there is regular contact between the two. The region specialist/mentor has contact with the volunteer throughout the project. The region specialist/mentor has updated knowledge on the issues and can address the partner organisation if needed. The region specialist/mentor is in possession of these guidelines, the BCN guidelines and the CPC.

Choosing your project’s partner organisation

The SIW projects come from partner organisations. Projects are excluded if they do not fulfil our guidelines.  The region specialists test as far as possible the partner organisation against the SIW (and BCN) guidelines. Upon the volunteers return, during the evaluation, time is given to evaluate the level of implementation of the guidelines within the organisations.

Better Care Network guidelines

Read more about the BCN guidelines regarding the deployment of volunteers working with children abroad on the website of the Better Care Network..