child protection policyThe story of child protection is a sorry one. Across the world, children remain vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Poor and orphaned, increasing numbers of children are at the mercy of individuals with intent to harm them, and those individuals are often at the heart of institutions working with children.

How then can organizations working for and with children call on the consciences of the world to put children at the center of all our concern?

Let’s ensure that planning and practice that concern children always recognize how resources and benefits can be manipulated to increase the power of would-be child abusers. And let’s recognize how an opportunity that a poor child so badly needs and deserves can be offered with sex as payment. Unless we all recognize this potential, we will fail in our duty to protect children.

Camfed’s Child Protection Policy (download pdf file) has this week been adopted by the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative. It has been honed from years of listening to children. Placing accountability for child protection at the most senior levels of the organization, we have developed structures that enable children to share their fears and secrets in ways that never compromise their privacy or safety.

Camfed International – Child Protection Policy (page 14 of 24)

We will strive to:
• Portray children as realistically as possible, in their own context, without being overly sensational or overly positive, and without portraying children as victims; 
• Represent the diversity of children in the areas where Camfed works and take care to give children’s perspectives due weight;
• Be aware that some children may need extra protection when communicating their stories (for example, those who have been orphaned by AIDS or who are living with HIV/AIDS);
• Ensure that children and their legal guardians are fully informed of any potential risks and made aware of their rights so that they can make informed decisions about sharing their story;
• Ensure that participants see how their story is used in Camfed materials;
• Empower children through telling their story.
 
Wherever possible, as well as gaining consent from the child, Camfed shall acquire verbal or written consent from the child’s parents, the child’s school or whoever is acting in loco parentis (eg. the Camfed partner responsible for the child, or their school) to use images and stories for external communication. (This may not always be possible when dealing with crowd shots.)
 
No payment or reward shall be given in order to gain consent. Additionally, there must be no payment to minors for material involving the welfare of children nor payment to parents or guardians (including schools and partner organisations) for material about their children or wards unless it is demonstrably in the child’s interest.

Field staff who share the language and culture of the communities in which they work are adept at reading the behaviors and silences of children, and interpreting the euphemisms they use to describe their harsh experiences. 

Let’s ask ourselves some questions that can guide our dialog. How often have those of us working with children been asked to explain our child protection policy? How often, on the other hand, have we been asked to explain our policy for protecting our finances? How can we move to a day when the protection of the child will have at least equal weight with the protection of finance in the minds of donors?

Child protection is a hugely complex subject, and we would like to pose these further questions for the discussion:

•    How can we strengthen the position of the child in relation to agencies by transforming their current status as beneficiaries to a fuller and more entitled position as clients?
•    What are the ethics being applied to communications around children, and what strategies do organizations have in place to protect the right of children to privacy?

Join Ann Cotton, founder and chief executive of the Campaign for Female Education (Camfed),  in the conversation.