Child Protection is at the heart of everything CIF does. Earlier this month we sat down with Naomy, our Programs Director and Menghong, the Kinship Care Project Manager, to discuss the importance of child protection in our Kinship Care and Foster Care projects. We invite you today to be part of this conversation.
The Importance of Child Protection
Menghong, can you explain to us why child protection is important?
“At CIF child protection is one of our core values. Child protection is important because children are a group of people who have less power. They need to be protected by parents and family. During that time in childhood, children need to improve all the pathways in their brain, especially in relation to feelings, mental development and physical development. When they have no protection, this development is not reached or may be destroyed by any activity of abuse. Maybe this development will stop and they will not reach their potential so we need to protect them. Child protection is also important because children will join in the social development of the country so we need to protect them for the future.”
Naomy nods in agreement. “Child protection is very important. We have policies for staff, children, families, visitors and donors and other organisations to be compliant with laws.”
Systems and Structures:
Naomy, can you explain more about the child protection systems and policies CIF has?
“There is a lack of understanding of child protection in many NGOs and organisations. They don’t understand that is important to their organisation. Sometimes this lack of education means that they have a policy but they don’t apply it to their staff or children. Sometimes they have a policy but it stays in the office. t means people take risks that they shouldn’t or do harm to children.
“We should know how to protect children, so every year we review our Child Protection Policy and our Staff policy, and retrain staff. All the staff need to know about this policy so we can recognise abuse and misbehaviour and know how we can protect children. Staff also need to know how to follow the laws and not do any harm themselves.”
Working with our Families to Protect Children
Child Protection is obviously central to the work we do with children and their families. Menghong, how do we help our kinship and foster care families understand the importance of child protection and what it is?
“We run training with the families. We look at some specific examples about child rights and child protection. We help the families to know the behaviors to look for for child abuse. With children, we conduct the “good touch bad touch” training so they can know the signs of abuse and grooming behaviors.
“We also teach parents and families about positive discipline. Some of the families don’t understand abuse, recognize abuse or know about other options for discipline. So this positive discipline course allows them to start to change their behaviors and start using positive behaviors. After these sessions, once they have a child placed in their family, our staff have discussions with their families. They talk to parents about how they can discipline without hitting.
“Also in these early activities with families, we encourage families to ask children to attend training, and to help students attend school regularly as we want to encourage child participation.
“I think it’s also important to say, even if we receive information about a child protection concern within a community, even if the child is not involved in one of our projects we follow it up and refer it to an agency or NGOs that work against abuse or trafficking. This is a CIF commitment to ensure the communities are child-safe.”
Along for the Journey
The three of us all parents. We know how hard it can be to look after children. Things change in families all the time, especially in rural areas where the year looks different. It can be stressful when children are sick, or when discipline doesn’t seem to work. For many of our foster care parents this is their first time parenting and kinship care families are often in hard situations, so how do we join with them in their parenting journeys? How do we help protect children by helping parents?
Naomy gets in with an answer first:
“Our staff have a relationship with families by visiting regularly. They can help monitor their income, to make sure there is enough for basic needs. They can listen to them about their problems and help them solve problems. We want to provide families with the resources they need because often they lack education. We have the opportunity through visiting to keep sharing small lessons, and the staff can fill gaps they see when they visit. For example, if a child steals money from the parents and they don’t know how to solve this problem because the child keeps taking money, our staff can give them more options of ideas to think through when they visit.
We have small groups of foster carers – every month they meet together. They can hear each other’s problems and share together. They can hear that they all have similar problems and they can feel a release from their problems because they all are feeling the same.
“When families are healthy, children look healthy emotionally and physically. They share their emotions and chat openly with us. The families don’t hide things from us. We can also hear from the neighbours and the village chief about how they behave. Sometimes the parents are a member of a church, so the pastor and church members can confirm with us that the child and parents have a good relationship.”
“Staff interact with the families one to two times a month. The staff can find out more about the situation with the families and provide them with mentoring and coaching. The family can change, grow and set goals every month. Because of the coaching and counselling, it is important to help them see issues and change things they are facing. Especially when they are taking in a new child, it is important to work with them to help them change and grow.
“In a good family, adults can play with and listen to the problems of the children. I think that most families in Cambodia are not really aware of this. They work hard to provide for the family. They focus on earning money for education, food and providing. They don’t spend the time to listen to the child because they are caring for the children in practical ways. Our CIF families are learning about this and doing this more.
“Our training gives them knowledge about how important it is to care about and protect the children.”