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Remote Child Protection in COVID-19

Due to COVID-19, it may not always be possible for caseworkers to undertake face-to-face visits with children in their homes or other settings where they are living - whether to follow up on a referral and make an assessment, or during the implementation of any agreed support and follow-up.

Due to COVID-19, it may not always be possible for caseworkers to undertake face-to-face visits with children in their homes or other settings where they are living – whether to follow up on a referral and make an assessment, or during the implementation of any agreed support and follow-up.

In this video we hear from Sara Mabger who is working as the Child Protection Coordinator for International Rescue Committee in Beirut, Lebanon. Sara tells us how members of the national Child Protection Case Management Taskforce have developed a Child Protection Case Management Guidance for Remote Phone Follow-up in COVID-19. We do urge you to read the full guidance that can be found here.

Remote Child Protection a Last Resort

Sara explains how the guidance recommends remote child protection case management should only be considered in circumstances when it is not possible to conduct support in person as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. And most importantly, how caseworkers should always remember the ‘do no harm’ principle and ensure no actions are taken that places the child at additional risk whilst contacting them.

Steps for Remote Child Protection

Sara provides us with details about some of the steps laid out in the guidance to make sure a child can safely speak to a caseworker. This includes:

  • Asking the child if they feel safe and asking their consent or assent to continue with the phone call. If the child sounds uncomfortable do not continue and ask the child if they are able to contact you when she/he is available through a missed-call, text message, or any other means that she/he feels comfortable with
  • Once you are sure it is safe to proceed, ask the following questions to confirm the child’s safety:
    • Are you comfortable talking right now?
    • Do you agree to continue this talk now over the phone? Or, do you prefer we schedule for a different time? Or, do you prefer to text me or make a missed-call when you are ready?
    • Is this the right number to call you on? Or, do you prefer me to call you on another number?
    • Are you taking the call from a room where you can speak privately and no-one can hear you? If this is not possible, don’t worry, we will manage. I can ask you some questions to which you can just answer YES or NO if that makes it easier for you. Does that sound ok?
  • Agree with the child what will happen if, for example:
    • Someone involved in the abuse, or someone who the child doesn’t trust in the place you are calling them picks up the phone
    • If the child does not feel safe/confident as someone may be listening to the call and there is a need to stop the call.
  • Agree with the child on a safe word or a code that they can use if they feel unsafe and would rather not speak any more
  • Assure the child that they can change the subject if they feel unsafe or are being listened to. Suggest if this happens they can start talking about something else like discussing the weather or any activities they have been doing etc.
  • Repeatedly ask the child for their consent to continue e.g.:
    • Do you feel safe enough for our conversation?
    • Please know that it’s ok to say no to me. I can call back at another time that is better for you. I am here to support you
    • Are you fine talking now?
  • Once safety is confirmed, you can continue
  • At all times let the child freely express and talk as much as he/she needs/wants. Use positive communication and listening skills. Be attentive and knowledgeable, be cautious and prepared to be assertive!

Remotely Assessing Whether the Child is in Danger

What is very important is if the child does not sound comfortable, do not continue the call and give them an option to contact you when they do feel more comfortable speaking. Remember, you can suggest they contact you through a missed-call, text message, or any other means that they feel comfortable with. In the event where it is assessed that the child is in imminent danger, consider checking with the child whether there is an adult in the immediate vicinity who they trust and can go to for help. Also consider the importance of making a face-to-face visit.

Again, please do read the full guidance which provides a lot more information including things to consider when calling a child for the very first time.

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COVID-19: Adapting Child Protection Case Management

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