Child protection systems
There is wide recognition among international child protection agencies that traditional approaches do not sufficiently prevent or respond to child protection issues. Child protection actors now accept the need to shift away from issue-specific, responsive programming towards a systems approach that includes a strong focus on prevention. This new focus on systems aims to move the child protection sector away from small scale and isolated projects towards a more systematic, efficient approach that considers the child and family in a more holistic fashion.
At the national level, a systems approach requires strong leadership, long-term investments, changes to established ways of ‘doing’ child protection, and greater consultation with other sectors (e.g. social protection, education, health, etc). Creating a national vision for protecting children requires moving past piecemeal, project-based, and localized initiatives towards a more holistic approach in which a set of core mandates and duties are established. To do this, systems-related evidence is required to create a common understanding of existing structures, build public consensus and guide national decision making.
In 2009, Plan International, Save the Children International and UNICEF WCARO came together with national partners to initiate a regional child protection systems mapping, assessment and analysis exercise in five pilot countries : Senegal, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Niger and Ghana. The rationale for this system mapping and analysis exercise includes recognition of the need to develop a more African-specific conceptual framework for systems work that includes non-formal systems, as well as to begin to build an evidence base on African experiences. This initiative provided a macro analysis of how the formal and non-formal child welfare systems are currently operating in these countries. It identified the gaps in existing systems and how well they fit the cultural and economic contexts in which they are operating. It also examined the connections between child protection and other relevant service sectors. Finally, this investigation examined child protection’s place within the overall development framework of these countries.