Strengthening Child Protection Systems

By Constance Ndeleko

A child protection system specifically respects children’s protection rights. The system needs to be rooted in the socio-cultural context(s); building upon informal practices, local values, and beliefs in families and communities that already support the care and protection of girls and boys of different ages and backgrounds.

UNICEF defines a child protection system as follows: “the set of laws, policies, regulations and services needed across all social sectors – especially social welfare, education, health, security and justice – to support prevention and protective responses inclusive of family strengthening”

“Systems strengthening work means that leaders and practitioners take a holistic view of interventions, and discern how an intervention aimed at one element of the system needs to have aligned interventions in other areas which will support success with the target intervention and strengthen other elements of the system at the same time”

Most countries have some form of child protection systems though they are often underdeveloped and fragmented. There is often an absence of, or outdated legislation that is weakly implemented, uses inadequate data and research, a lack of budget allocation, or a very small social service workforce with limited skills and resources to help them protect the most vulnerable and marginalized children and their families.

Where the system fails to work in the best interests of the child, it may actually cause harm (e.g.  where local systems negotiate for families to be compensated for their child having been raped). In such systems, the interests of adults are often put first and violence against children, such as corporal punishment may be seen as a necessity in the development of positive behavior. /Save the Children/

Strengthening child protection systems promotes security on the right of children, to a life free from violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect in both emergency and non-emergency settings. Whereby, it will fully realize the dream that out rightly contributes to the achievement of national socio-economic development and poverty reduction agendas in Africa.

Undeniably, effective child protection hinges on appropriate policies, legislation and regulations, structures and implementation that vastly depends on social acceptance and funding of programs that enhances optimal growth and development of our children.

Therefore, for these systems to function appropriately, we need to identify and fill in the loop holes that are fracturing our systems by: enhancing effective promotion, prevention and response to violence, abuse and exploitation; ensuring access to high quality evidence and data to improve decision-making in child protection.

It’s not only about strengthening protection systems but also guaranteeing that they are integrated, child-centered, and guided by the best interests of the child. Thus, it calls for a collective actions towards enhancing child participation and inclusion in decision making about them and the future.

Additionally, these systems should adhere to sensitive context and environment and also take full account of the child’s role in the system by creating better coordination, engagement, capacity from various actors, children, society, and government, families, CSOs and more so private sectors.

Child protection systems should be sensitive to context and environment; take full account of the child’s role in the system; and create better coordination, engagement, and capacity of a wide range of actors, children, youth and families, to traditional and faith leaders, to government, civil society and the private sector.

Why the need to strengthen these systems?

  • To address difficult problems to prevent and protect children from all forms of violence
  • They serve all children and have greater capacity to reach even the most vulnerable.
  • Helps overcome the limitations of a disjointed approach to child protection, which prior focused on specific child protection issues.
  • To effectively build upon the strengths and resilience of children, families, communities, and governments to protect and care for children
  • Helps in tackling the diverse range of child protection concerns affecting girls and boys of different ages and background.
  • They stand guided by long-term thinking, and thus is more likely to be sustainable.
  • They promote the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal

There’s a clear need for collaborative action towards enhancing an Africa Fit for Children and ensuring that their rights are protected and they are included in decision making process to even meet the needs of the most vulnerable groups in the society.

Sources: Save the Children and Strengthening Child Protection Systems in Sub-Sahara Africa working paper

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