When it comes to child abuse prevention…what do CIF and David Beckham Have In Common?
Hint: It has nothing to do with exceptional soccer skills.
While David Beckham may be best known for his career as a renowned English soccer player, he has recently been getting attention for something else – the launching of 7: The David Beckam UNICEF Fund to promote the safety and well-being of children worldwide aimed at child abuse prevention.
As announced on the UNICEF UK website,“David has committed to using his powerful global voice, influence and connections to raise vital funds and encourage world leaders to create lasting positive change for children. He’s working with UNICEF to ensure that world leaders put children first and agree new development goals that will help end violence, preventable death and poverty for every child.”
This campaign recently brought Beckham to Cambodia where he met personally with children who had experienced violence to, in his words, “hear their stories and see what UNICEF and its partners are doing to keep these children safe.”
CIF shares David Beckam’s concern child abuse prevention. So while Beckham is investing time and energy to give a voice to children around the world, bringing them to the attention of global leaders and encouraging them to take action on these issues, the staff at Children In Families are quietly working at the grassroots level in local Cambodian communities to help keep children safe from harm.
Child Abuse Prevention is a Complex Issue
Addressing the complex problems connected to child abuse is a challenge worldwide. In addition to being subject to common contributing factors that exist everywhere, such as substance abuse, family stress, disability, etc., Cambodian children are at exceptionally high risk for abuse and neglect. This can stem from a mix of national societal factors like widespread poverty, weak protective services, lack of social supports for children and families, and large gaps in the justice system.
Child abuse in Cambodia takes many forms. While people often think of child abuse in connection with family violence, abuse of Cambodian children includes child labor, trafficking, and exploitation, as well as acts of violence perpetrated by other community members.
According to the Cambodian Center for the Protection of Children’s Rights, at least 30,000 of Cambodia’s commercial sex workers are children, some as young as 6 years old, and rape victims 10 years old and below account for 18% of the total number of cases reported to the Cambodia Women’s Crisis Center. And, contrary to the myth that orphanages are havens of protection against these societal dangers, children in institutional care are generally more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse than children living in the care of families.
How Do We Help with Child Abuse Prevention?
Because living in a loving family is, without a doubt, the safest and healthiest place for a child to grow up, the very mission of Children In Families is already a step in the right direction toward child abuse prevention. Whenever possible we help children to remain with their family of origin through our kinship care program. Often this means living with grandparents or an aunt and uncle, where they already have a natural relational bond. When living with extended family members is not a safe option, children are placed in carefully screened foster families. This is just the start of keeping children safe from harm, however.
Other steps our social work staff take include providing ongoing training for families covering such topics as parenting skills, positive discipline, and child rights; regularly reviewing our Child Protection Policy with all care families as well as anyone involved with Children In Families; and regular monitoring of all families in our programs by our staff who are careful to observe for any indication of abuse. These monitoring visits also provide opportunity for individualized counseling of families.
In many cases, our staff live within the communities in which they work. They get to know their neighbors. Anyone who has lived in a small town understands the inherent advantages and disadvantages of neighbors’ knowing what’s going on with one another. For the purposes of keeping a watchful eye out for children’s safety, being engaged in the community life of the village is a good thing. Additionally, our staff work very intentionally to develop constructive relationships with government officials at all levels, and with other community entities, including local churches, who can help to both keep a watch out for abuse and be a resource to families who may be under stress.
Children In Families engages in child abuse protection when we network and coordinate with other organizations promoting child safety and welfare. This has provided opportunities for our staff to receive targeted training regarding child rights and child protection. It also has allowed us to coordinate with organizations to access special services for specific children and families as needed.
Cambodia has about 5 million children under the age of 15, many of them struggling through difficult circumstances. Children in Families currently works with about 200 children in our Kinship Care and Foster Care Programs, and it is our deepest desire to see them live out their childhoods and their lives in health and safety. Our policies and practices are built on this desire, and as we continue putting the right people in the right jobs, those policies and practices get stronger. We continue to give our best, and make our best today better than it was yesterday.