“Child-sensitive social protection helps all children to realize their rights and full potential” (UNICEF, 2012). Child-sensitive social protection addresses social inequities, risks, and vulnerabilities children face throughout the life cycle. Recognizing that a child's experience of poverty and vulnerability is often quite different from an adult's, child-sensitive social protection strategies include children and their caregivers in the design of- and participation in- social protection programs that affect them and strive to optimize children's developmental outcomes.
Given children's diverse needs and contexts, child-sensitive social protection must strengthen integrated approaches that address social and economic vulnerabilities and include coordinated, quality, multisectoral approaches to disease, malnutrition, abuse, exploitation and lack of family care.
UNICEF's 2009 joint statement on advancing child-sensitive social protection sets out the following guiding principles to be considered when designing, implementing and evaluating child-sensitive social protection programs:
Principles of Child-Sensitive Social Protection
- Avoid adverse impacts on children, and reduce or mitigate social and economic risks that directly affect children's lives.
- Intervene as early as possible where children are at risk, in order to prevent irreversible impairment or harm.
- Consider the age- and gender-specific risks and vulnerabilities of children throughout the life-cycle.
- Mitigate the effects of shocks, exclusion and poverty on families, recognizing that families raising children need support to ensure equal opportunity.
- Make special provision to reach children who are particularly vulnerable and excluded, including children without parental care, and those who are marginalized within their families or communities due to their gender, disability, ethnicity, HIV and AIDS or other factors.
- Consider the mechanisms and intra-household dynamics that may affect how children are reached, with particular attention paid to the balance of power between men and women within the household and broader community.
- Include the voices and opinions of children, their caregivers and youth in the understanding and design of social protection systems and programs.
Child-sensitive social protection systems benefit children, their families, communities and national development by mitigating the effects of poverty on families, strengthening families in their child care role, and improving access to basic services for the poorest and most marginalized.