Children deserve to be cared for in a loving and nurturing environment, free of abuse, violence, exploitation and neglect, yet children are vulnerable to these in many different situations - families, schools, alternative care, in work environments and on the street. Child Protection prevents and responds to child abuse, exploitation and neglect, and family separation.
Why is protection support important?
All children have the right to protection. Growing up in poverty and unsafe conditions is associated with significant threats to physical and mental health, brain development and learning.
Children affected by poverty, HIV and AIDS, disability, lack of parental care, conflict or natural disaster are particularly vulnerable to abuse, neglect, exploitation and HIV infection. Lack of protection increases a child’s vulnerability to physical, social and emotional problems and HIV risk.
Abuse can have both short-term and long-term effects on individuals and communities, including long-term effects of gender-based violence on community health and economic problems. Some countries have found higher unemployment among adults who were abused or neglected as children. Other countries, where child abuse, exploitation and neglect are common, often suffer some civil unrest
How should protection support be delivered?
"Child Protection Programs should be both preventive,minimizing children's risk of facing violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect, and responsive, providing specialized services in cases where children are at especially high risk for - or have experienced - child protection violations" (AIDSTAR-One, July 2011). Recognizing that children have different needs at different ages and stages in their development, child protection programs should be developmentally appropriate and address specific needs of early childhood development, middle childhood and adolescence.
The focus on Child Protection Systems Strengthening represents a major paradigm shift within the protection field and requires new policies, partnerships and programming approaches (Policy and Programming Resource Guide For Child Protection Systems Strengthening in Sub-Saharan Africa, 2011).
Government, Civil Society, communities and families all play critical roles at different levels of the system and all share responsibility to protect children, including protecting them from HIV infection. Although families are ideally a child's primary caregiver, many families find this role challenging without community support. For communities to support families and ensure that children and families access a range of essential services, they must have the support of government and civil society. A well-organized, well-functioning social service system creates an environment for government and non-government, communities and families to care for children to the best of their ability.
Key Child Protection Activities and Messages
- Strengthen Child Protection Systems at every level: Government (Ministry of Social Services), Civil Society (NGO's CBO's, FBO's), Community and Family. Build connections between levels of child protection networks.
- Mandate policies that safeguard children as part of all OVC programs and partner collaborations. Promote child protection training for staff and partners such as "Keeping Children Safe" specialized training.
- Strengthen Government Capacity: Work with trained partners who have technical expertise to perform high-quality, child-sensitive child protection work.
- Strengthen families to provide nurturing environments and to reduce risks of poverty, food insecurity, illness, including HIV and child abuse.
- Provide children, families and caregivers with life-skills training and education to build self-esteem, resiliency and awareness of available support services.
- Prioritize the Child's Best Interests to determine the most effective prevention, early intervention and alternative care options.
- Consider residential care as a last resort. As a last resort, it should be time-limited, including a transition plan.
- Promote legal protection to ensure child rights, birth registration, access to basic services, inheritance rights and to prevent harmful practices such as child labor, early marriage, child trafficking and female genital mutilation.
- Advocate for enforcement of strong child protection legislation at all levels. Include trained law enforcement.
- Register each child's birth to ensure child rights and access to basic services. These services are vital in protecting against child abuse and exploitation.
- Integrate child protection activities within existing health services such as maternal and newborn health, prenatal care and PMTCT and within school-based programs.
- Base policies and practices on international standards such as the U.N. Convention on the rights of the child, and those listed in Protecting Children affected by HIV against Abuse, Exploitation, Violence and Neglect, appendix 1.
Key links for protection support
XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC (July, 2012). Track D. Social Science, Human Rights and Political Science
Child Rights Information Network. CRIN is a global network that coordinates information and promotes action on child rights.
ChildHope. Child Hope has developed the Child Protection Toolkit, a practical learning tool and set of resources designed for non-government organisations, working with children particularly in Africa, Asia and South America. The toolkit outlines key child protection principles and stages for developing, implementing and evaluating child protection policies.
Keeping Children Safe Coalition. The Keeping Children Safe Coalition is made up of 17 agencies committed to the highest level of child protection and to creating a safer world for children. KCS has developed international standards for organizations to work towards achieving.
Better Care Network. The Better Care Network brings together organisations and individuals concerned about children without adequate family care.
Save the Children. Save the Children works to ensure children get proper healthcare, food, education and protection through emergency responses, long-term development programmes and campaigns.
UNICEF. UNICEF advocates for and supports the creation of a protective environment for children, in partnership with governments and national and international partners, including the private sector and civil society.