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Key elements of child safeguarding

Read about safeguarding children.

What is child safeguarding?

Child safeguarding is what every organisation that works with or for children needs to put at the heart of everything they do, every day. They need to make sure their staff, operations, and programmes do no harm to children, ensuring that not a single child gets exposed to abuse, and that any concerns about children’s safety are reported to the appropriate authorities.

During conflict, violence against children increases. Services and traditional protection systems can break down. Power imbalances often increase, leading to amplified risks of sexual abuse, exploitation and other forms of harm. The control of resources, services and opportunities, which NGO workers often have, is a form of power that can be used to abuse or exploit children and their families.

Most humanitarian workers do act with compassion and professionalism; however some will fail in their duty of care while others will deliberately seek out, create or exploit opportunities to abuse children and adults.

CAAFAG in particular are exposed to risks of abuse due to their experience of violence. Girls and boys may display aggressive behaviours that may not be understood as a sign of distress and that may be difficult to handle. Experiences of sexual abuse, lack of self-esteem or isolation may also increase their vulnerability to abuse.

Every organisation implementing programmes with children, including CAAFAG, should establish a child safeguarding policy and measures to prevent, document and respond to abuse of children by its personnel.

Child safeguarding policy

You should have your own policy that states commitments and responsibilities in protecting children from harm, reporting procedures, consequences of breaching the policy and responsibility for implementation, compliance and measurement.

Referral pathway

A referral pathway is a document that highlights the process by which children are referred to service providers and community-level structures based on specific types of child protection threats, violations and vulnerabilities.

You need a referral pathway for various purposes, including for referring children exposed to violence and abuse identified through feedback and monitoring mechanism, as part of the child safeguarding policy. If your organisation has a case management system in place, the children will be referred to the caseworkers who already have a referral pathway in place. Otherwise, you should refer the child to another agency providing case management.

Training all staff

You should train all your staff on child safeguarding, including code of conduct with dos and don’ts and internal reporting mechanisms to a designated Child Safeguarding focal point within the organisation or through a hotline. The training should include discussions of particularly vulnerable groups such as CAAFAG. You need to organise annual refresher sessions for all staff after their first training. Staff must also be trained on protection from sexual exploitation and abuse.

Awareness-raising with children and community

Once the feedback and reporting system are in place and staff are trained, the next step is to inform the community. There should be discussions with all groups about the child safeguarding policy and how it works. It is also important to answer the questions they may have, hear their concerns, identify potential barriers and their insights to adjust the system if required.

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Programme Design for Children Associated with Armed Forces and Armed Groups (CAAFAG)

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