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Challenges in identifying and referring children at risk because of COVID-19

National and international organisations are adapting child protection case management practices in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Sofia Baccichetto, a Senior Child Protection Assistant for UNHCR in Ecuador, summarises some of the challenges in implementing steps of child protection case management due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In different parts of the world, national and international organisations are adapting child protection case management practices in response to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This includes updating and/or developing guidelines that provide details about roles, responsibilities and procedures, including criteria for prioritisation of cases that ultimately ensure an authorised child protection caseworker is informed and provided all the information they need to decide on any next steps and actions.

It includes defining the different roles and responsibilities and ways of working in partnership with different service providers, and community-based child protection groups and focal points.

Updating guidance

The task to update and adapt such information might be undertaken during the COVID-19 pandemic by a government department in partnership with an inter-agency child protection working group — or a specifically authorised organisation — to review, or prepare new:

  • Guidance and information on child protection risks, definitions and core principles to be shared with all relevant service providers and community groups
  • Information on the relevant national and international legal framework
  • Clear identification of the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders in the response to child protection concerns and shared procedures. This should include:
  • Guidelines (perhaps in a flow chart) and standard operating procedures (SOP) on how to report a child for whom there is a protection concern, including:
    • Who reports cases of abuse, violence and exploitation from different services or nominated persons in a community child protection group
    • Who to report a child for whom there are protection concerns to (i.e. which government child protection office or nominated non-governmental agency/a case management team or named person) and their contact details during the COVID-19 pandemic
    • Development of shared procedures for documenting, referring and sharing information about a child’s case between service providers and child protection agencies. This includes:
      • A timeframe in which referrals should be made
      • Shared forms for making referrals
      • The information to be gathered and passed on to a child protection case worker about the child and their situation
      • Details on the safest way for a case worker to contact the child — and parents/care providers — during the COVID-19 pandemic (this might be on the phone or through an internet link for instance).

Referral reports

You can find an example of a simple referral report template on page 113 of a manual issued by ChildFund International.

Clear guidance on ways to safely communicate and share information about children’s cases between community-based groups/focal points with case management teams in authorised child protection organisations is essential. This should also include guidance on confidentiality and consent.

All of these steps should be regularly reviewed and updated as situations change due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All the information that is produced should use simple and clear language, translated into relevant languages.

In addition, everyone involved in child protection case management should also have the skills, attitudes and values that are important for the identification, referral and response to children of concern.

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COVID-19: Adapting Child Protection Case Management

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