Child protection

UNICEF strengthens child protection systems to safeguard children and their families from a full spectrum of risks. This includes ensuring every child has a supportive family environment, access to justice and protection from violence.

A conflict-affected girl takes part in a celebration of the International Children's Day in Svyatohirsk, eastern Ukraine. The event was organized by the Community Protection Centre supported by UNICEF.

The challenge

Every child has the right to protection. In Europe and Central Asia UNICEF strengthens national child protection systems, particularly in the areas of family separation, access to justice and protection from violence, abuse and exploitation. 

National child protection systems include all measures and organizations working together in a country to protect children. They can include organizations vital to social welfare, education and health care, as well as law-enforcement agencies and organizations responding to humanitarian emergencies. A strong child protection system addresses the many inter-connected risks that confront children and their families. The challenge is to build such systems in every country across the region to protect every child.

The solution

UNICEF’s work in Europe and Central Asia supports the building of strong national child protection systems that work in the best interests of all children, including the most vulnerable. Our work to strengthen child protection focuses on three key areas: keeping families together, access to justice and the prevention of violence against children.

The Markovic family wash their children in a bath at their home in Bac, Serbia.

Keeping families together

Europe and Central Asia still has the highest numbers globally of children separated from their families. While the number of children in institutional care in the region has fallen, too many children still grow up in institutions and the number of those in other forms of alternative care is rising. Across the region, we work to prevent family separation, pushing for effective child-care systems that keep families together wherever possible. We also work to prevent - and end - the placement of children in institutions.  

A 17-year-old boy hangs onto a fence at a detention centre where he has spent the last 19 months. He is only half way through his sentence.

Access to justice

UNICEF is the region’s leading advocate for juvenile justice reform, and upholds every child's right to pursue justice. While countries in the region are at different stages on this issue, those that already see juvenile detention as a last resort are well-placed to take a broader approach to ensure full access to justice for all children, including those seeking justice; those involved in judicial proceedings as victims, witnesses and offenders; and those participating in civil or administrative justice processes. 

11-year-old Ajsa is photographed in front of a laptop, with her head in her hands.

Protecting children from violence

Violence, abuse and exploitation have a devastating impact on children. Threatening their lives and physical health, as well as threatening their emotional well-being and future prospects. Violence can be passed from one generation to the next, with children who experience it more likely to see it as ‘normal’ and become adult victims or perpetrators. UNICEF works to prevent and respond to violence against children, including online violence, aiming to reduce the number of children affected and break the silence and stigma surrounding this issue.


These resources on child protection represent just a small selection of materials produced by UNICEF and its partners in the region. The list is regularly updated to include the latest information. 

Papers and reports

Hidden in Plain Sight report (2014) - UNICEF

Estimating the number of children in formal alternative care: challenges and results (2017) - UNICEF

MICS reports with data on child disciplining and other forms of violence against children (various) - UNICEF



End violence against children; the global partnership 

UNICEF's global #ENDviolence campaign 

Special representative of the secretary general on violence against children 

We protect campaign

Global campaign to end corporal punishment