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Child Protection Case Management During COVID-19

In this video you will hear from Sophie Etzold who is working as a Child Protection Officer for UNHCR in Uganda. Sophie tells us how UNHCR has been working through an inter-agency process with the Uganda Child Protection Working Group to adapt child protection case management in response to challenges now being faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this video you will hear from Sophie Etzold who is working as a Child Protection Officer for UNHCR in Uganda. Sophie tells us how UNHCR has been working through an inter-agency process with the Uganda Child Protection Working Group to adapt child protection case management in response to challenges now being faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adapting to COVID-19

You will hear Sophie explain some of the protection risks children face and particularly describe the work to reach out to children living in refugee settlements. Sophie describes how processes and guidance have been adapted for such procedures as prioritisation criteria and determining risk levels of child protection cases, mapping of available services, and inter-agency referral pathways. She also tells us about the importance of working with community focal points and groups and how roles and responsibilities of key actors in the community should be carefully defined and supported. Sophie also reminds us of the important principles of ‘do no harm’ and the best interests of the child.

You can find details of the Uganda Child Protection Sub Working Group Business Continuity Plan – COVID 19 risk in the Uganda refugee response here

Child Protection: A Collaborative Approach

It is important to recognise how a child protection caseworker from an ‘authorised’ agency has overall responsibility for the case of a child when there are protection concerns. This is someone who is qualified – and ideally appointed at the time a child first comes to the attention of a child protection agency – that will continue to be responsible for the child’s ongoing welfare.

It is also important, however, that child protection caseworkers are able to work in coordination and partnership with those of you from other sectors and services – most especially during such times as the COVID-19 pandemic. To do this, we need to work together to define our different roles and responsibilities and ways to work together across sectors. This includes taking actions to adapt and fulfil steps of case management. Community-based child protection groups also have a key role to play.

Adapting Child Protection Case Management

The information below has been gathered from the guidance issued by different child protection agencies – including the Technical Note: Protection of Children during the Coronavirus Pandemic (available in 20 languages) produced by the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action. This includes ways of adapting working practices and coordination between child protection agencies, other service providers, community child protection groups, and community focal points such as religious leaders and community leaders. A summary of the recommendations on ways to achieve and adapt case management include:

  • Identification of teams of key workers from different service providers and members of community child protection groups and community focal points, still able to reach children during the pandemic, who can play a role in the prevention of harm and identification, referral and support of children for whom there are protection concerns
  • A clear understanding of everyone’s roles and responsibilities – for example, who, and to what extent, will service providers and community based group members raise awareness of child protection risks, provide follow up and support to cases, conduct visits etc. during the COVID-19 pandemic – particularly bearing in mind any necessary adaptations to current roles if some case workers are no longer able to reach certain communities
  • Adapting existing, or developing new protocols and shared Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for child protection that are reviewed and updated as situations evolve including the different roles and responsibilities
  • Updating guidance and information of child protection concerns, definitions and core principles
  • Training on child protection and safeguarding for staff from different sectors and community group members and the role they can play in case management
  • Mapping of services still available, in increased demand, now closed etc. during the pandemic
  • Guidance on ways to share data and information – including issues of consent and confidentiality
  • Coordination across different sectors including heath, education, food, water and sanitation providers to develop and disseminate/display messages for children and the community about protection, safety and well-being of children as well as specific COVID-19 health messages.

Here is an example of how the Child Protection Working Groups in Somalia and Iraq have provided guidance on adapting case management during the pandemic. The guidance in Iraq also takes into consideration working in refugee camps.

During the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, it may also be possible for child protection caseworkers to become an integral member of other service provider teams that are still able to reach children and provide services. For example, if this can be done safely, a caseworker might become a focal point, or run protection desks, based in health centres or hospitals. Perhaps they could be based in refugee reception and registration centres, at food distribution points, border crossings, within shelter and housing services and other places children and their caregivers are still able to receive and access services. It might also be possible to work within mobile teams such as outreach medical workers, those delivering food, law enforcement etc.

You can find more guidance on coordination of case management and developing protocols and standing operating procedures on the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action website.

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COVID-19: Adapting Child Protection Case Management

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