Strengthening child protection systems
Every child has the right to access vital social services and fair justice systems.
No matter their story, all children have the right to health care, education and other forms of social protection that shield them from the lifelong consequences of poverty and exclusion. But worldwide, many are deprived of these rights – some as early as birth.
Nearly a quarter of the world’s children under 5 do not 'officially' exist, their births not registered because their parents cannot afford it, cannot reach it, or face some other barrier to registration services. Without a legal identity, these children have no claim to social protection or justice systems, making them especially vulnerable to violence, exploitation and abuse.
Children who have lost the care of their parents may also find it impossible to access essential services. If placed in some forms of alternative care, they become even more exposed to physical and emotional abuse or neglect.
For children who have been uprooted by conflict, poverty and disaster, the risk of exclusion soars. Millions of children have taken perilous journeys, within and across borders, to find a safe and prosperous life. As they do, they encounter discrimination, violence and exploitation along the way – all while cut off from essential care.
Victims of child labour or trafficking are also deprived of the most basic human rights. In extreme situations, these children may be forced into sexual exploitation or recruitment by armed groups, with no means to seek protection or justice.
UNICEF works to strengthen and improve child protection systems and access to vital social services for children, including the world’s most vulnerable. Key areas of our work include:
We support governments to strengthen their civil registration systems by developing and improving birth registration policies and laws. We also advocate for linking birth registration to social services, investing in innovate solutions and increasing service points for registration and community engagement.
We strengthen the social service workforce to identify and respond to potential situations of child labour through case management and social protection services, including early identification, registration and interim rehabilitation and referral services.
We focus on the root causes of family-child separation, while strengthening child protection systems and supporting children’s transition from institutional care to community- and family-based alternative care.
We work to ensure that children uprooted from their homes – including migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced children and children who have been trafficked or smuggled – retain their rights and dignity at all stages of their journey.
We improve children’s access to justice systems that are child-friendly, gender-sensitive and well-resourced to uphold their rights. This includes by encouraging alternatives to detention and empowering children to know and claim their rights.
Since social service workers are a key – and often under-resourced – part of a well-functioning child protection system, we develop and support the social service workforce, assisting governments with policy, legislation, regulatory frameworks and human resources that strengthen the workforce, while aligning diverse sectors to leverage local knowledge and help train social service workers.
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Last updated 27 October 2021