Skip main navigation

Working within a national child protection system

Video showing the importance of governmental and non governmental agencies working together

In this video we will hear from Daniel Ponce, Liaison Coordinator of the Executive Secretariat of the National System for the Comprehensive Protection of Children and Adolescents, Government of Mexico. He tells us about the importance of governmental and non-governmental agencies working together to provide services that are mandated and developed as part of a national child protection system. We also hear this position being endorsed by Christian Skoog, Representative of UNICEF Mexico. Christian tells us how it is absolutely essential we all work together to help strengthen existing – even if weak – national child protection systems.

The UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children call on States to hold the ultimate responsibility for provision of alternative care of all children residing in their country, including unaccompanied and separated children. This requires governments to respect the ‘necessity’ and ‘suitability’ principles we outlined in week one, and develop and maintain a fully functioning child protection and alternative care system.

As part of a child protection and care system, a country should have a framework of relevant national laws and policies. This framework provides a mandate for our work and should stipulate how different organisations support children without parental care – including unaccompanied or separated children. It is important we all work together within this national child protection and alternative care system and corresponding legal framework.

If we work for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) we must be careful not to create parallel systems of alternative care and child protection. Rather, we should work in cooperation and coordination with government-run systems, and, if necessary, help bring national laws and practices in line with international standards. It also means that, whenever possible, case management should be undertaken by someone from the national child protection and child care systems, or an agency officially nominated to act on the government’s behalf.

Sometimes governments are unable or unwilling to undertake case management and provide alternative care and other services – especially for unaccompanied and separated children. Where this is the situation, this should not prevent other national and international organisations and their staff from responding to children’s care and protection needs. Indeed, government at national and local level routinely request specific NGOs, UN and other agencies to undertake this work on their behalf.

Furthermore, if a government lacks capacity to provide suitable care and undertake case management for unaccompanied or separated children in an appropriate way, it is important that NGOs and donors contribute to building the capacity of a national child protection and care system. They should also help equip other services such as security, health, education etc. with appropriate expertise, procedures, and resources.

In the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Guidelines on Assessing and Determining the Best Interests of the Child it is recommended that the UNHCR and its partners should seek to support rather than replace national child protection systems in a spirit of partnership, by ‘building on each actor’s comparative advantages to reinforce the beneficial impact on the protection of children’.

The ‘See Also’ section below has links to other reading material that may be of interest to you.

This article is from the free online

Caring for Children Moving Alone: Protecting Unaccompanied and Separated Children

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now