What is Child Protection Policy?
The child protection policy of a country is not a single document but it is a collection of all statutory and non-statutory measures taken by a country to address child abuse and neglect and other issues related to the protection of children.
Over the period of time, countries of the world and experts on child protection policy learned that what works best for the protection of children. These best practices are considered part of a good child protection policy of a country. Following are some of the best practices in child protection policy.
1. Research and Evidence
This is one of the most important practices in the child protection policy process that before creating a policy, there should be sufficient evidence and research to know the various dimensions of the problem. Solution of problem can be designed only when we know about all important aspects of a problem. For example, it is important to know that how many children are abused. What is the age group of abused children mostly? Children of which gender are abused mostly? Children of which socio-economic background or ethnicity are more at risk of abuse? What are the characteristics of the abuser? A piece of legislation or a policy without knowing the various dimensions of issues related to child protection will not be effective to address the issue.
2. Child Abuse Prevention Measures
Children should be protected before falling prey to abuse. A broader preventive child protection policy is always better than a narrow curative policy. A good child protection policy also focuses its attention on all necessary preventive measures to protect children from abuse. Raising awareness about child protection, child abuse prevention education of children, community and school-based awareness programs and other such measures are focused on protecting children from abuse.
3. Child Abuse Prevention Legislation
Mostly, preventive measures are non-statutory but sometimes even there are examples that preventive measures are legislated. One such good example is Erin’s law in the United States of America and all those states of the USA which adopt this legislation are supported in specific child protection programs by the federal government. This legislation declares mandatory child abuse prevention education. This legislation was presented by Erin, a professional social worker with a background in child protection practice.
4. Populism must not affect the Child Protection Policy Process
Political populism must not influence the child protection policy-making process. The intent of child protection making should be to endure the protection of children rather than win the polls.
“What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.” –Albert Einstein
5. Addressing Child Abuse Cases under one roof (Barnahus Model Approach)
Coordination between multiple institutions is a serious issue in reported cases of child abuse and neglect. According to this model, all the services required for proceeding during child abuse and neglect cases are provided under one roof. The purpose of this service is to facilitate the survivors of child abuse incidents so that they should get all the services under one roof without facing the problems related to coordination, interaction at multiple points and speedy justice.
6. Multi-Disciplinary Team Approach
It is a serious issue that children victims of child abuse and neglect are interviewed repeatedly by different professionals and in different institutional settings. Recalling the painful experience is traumatic and seriously affects the mental health of children and their guardians. A multi-disciplinary team of social workers, lawyers, police officers, psychologists, healthcare workers and other important professionals works closely for effective child abuse and neglect case management. During the proceeding, such a multi-disciplinary team conducts case conferences to discuss the progress of the case regularly. Thus, the issue of coordination is resolved and children are not interviewed unnecessarily. This approach minimizes the number of interviews with abused children and the issue of interaction in multiple institutional settings is also resolved.
7. Inclusion of Voices of Children
It is one of important aspects of a good child protection policy to ensure the representation of children in legislation and policymaking by including their voices through appropriate research methodologies. Children should be at the heart of the policy formulated for them.
8. Policy should be Child/Victim focused, not perpetrator focused
During the process of child abuse cases, a child should not vanish from the scene. Unfortunately, it happens that the entire system focuses on punishing the perpetrator, and the child victim is focused on required facilitation, treatment, rehabilitation, referral and further protection from abuse. It is an element of a good child protection policy that children should be at the heart of everything.
9. Best Interests of Child
The best interests of a child should be protected by all means. All the decisions and steps taken during the case management process should be taken in the best interests of the child. At a point during the case, no such step should be taken which is not in the interest of the child.
10. Supporting the Vulnerable Families
Addressing the social, financial and other vulnerabilities of families ensures the protection of children living in these families. Good child protection policies identify such vulnerable families and their vulnerabilities and address these vulnerabilities.
11. Alternative Care should be the Last Resort
There is no alternative to the family environment and primary guardian of the child. Therefore, alternative care is the last resort and removal of a child from the family environment is not an ordinary act. Efforts should be made that services and institutions created to facilitate the child should not harm him/her. All the decisions related to the care of a child should be made deep case analysis and proper consultation keeping in view the best interests and safety of a child.
12. Certainty of Punishment, rather than its Severity for deterrence
A good child protection policy identifies and addresses the loopholes to improve the conviction rates in reported cases of child abuse and neglect. This certainty of punishment creates the deterrence to halt the violence against children.
13. Rehabilitation of Victim and Perpetration
It is important to rehabilitate the victims of violence against children. Physical, psychological and social rehabilitation of victims of violence against children is very important. Rehabilitation of perpetrators of violence against children is also an important element of a child protection policy that must be addressed so that they should not repeat the violence. In so many cases of violence against children such as sexual violence against children, two-third of perpetrators of violence are juveniles who need rehabilitation to lead a normal life.
14. Rights-based approach
A good child protection policy always adopts the rights-based approach. Safety and protection are the right of children ensured by constitutions of all the modern democracies and it is the responsibility of every state to create a conducive environment for the safety and protection of children.
15. Effective Case Management
The entire case is managed in holistic and various aspects of a case are not addressed separately. It is especially considered that how the overall case will be influenced while taking any step. Starting from the reporting to the treatment of child, investigation, the collaboration of services, collection of evidence and other aspects, all the aspects of a case are addressed ineffective case management approach. A reported case of child abuse or neglect should be managed effectively to ensure the safety of the victim, the best of interests of the child and the provision of justice.
It is important to include the best practices in the child protection policy-making process for successfully addressing the issues related to child protection.