Child Protection

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Child Protection Policy

“Thappar khayega?” “Do you want a slap?” – familiar words used frequently enough by parents and teachers across regions, class, religion and education to inure us to their potential impact on children. While they may sound innocuous to an adult, frequent threats, jibes and discrimination can devastate a child’s health and well-being as much as physical neglect, maltreatment and sexual exploitation. They’re all forms of the rampant violence against children, with consequences that may persist into adulthood.

Despite laws and international conventions that protect their rights, three in four children worldwide – that’s about 1.7 billion kids, including over half of Indian children – have experienced violence. Disabled children are four to five times more vulnerable to abuse than their non-disabled peers because difficulties with communicating the abuse makes them  easy targets. If the violence is sexual or the abuser a relative, as is usually the case, families may turn a blind eye to avoid calling attention to something that would stigmatise them all. Disabled children may be kept hidden at home and not sent to school.  Those who do attend school may have their disability kept secret. They may have no opportunity to play with their peers. Investing time and resources in them may be considered unnecessary if the economic returns are perceived to be unlikely.

Even when disabled children do confide in a trusted adult, the road to justice is paved with reluctance or insensitivity from the very professionals whose duty it is to protect their rights, such as  teachers, police officers or healthcare staff. For children with limited mobility, or illiterate, daily wage earning parents, repeated trips to schools, hospitals or police stations to register complaints or follow up on action are a waste of time and money.

At the Foundation, Child Protection (CP) is one of our guiding principles,  informing everything we do. It’s integrated into recruitment, training, parent education, classroom management, staff development, everything.  We’ve learnt the importance of knowing the law, constant vigilance and being proactive. Every member of staff understands what constitutes violence against children, and that any behaviour that harms a child is grounds for dismissal. CP is everyone’s job.

We work closely with families, providing information and support to help them cope with the demands of caregiving. During a crisis, our legal team works closely with the family, child and authorities to press for justice. We raise awareness in communities and civic groups – school authorities, students, doctors, neighbours and government officials – about disability-related issues and how negative attitudes increase our children’s vulnerability to violence. Since children tend to do better in their own homes than in institutions where they’re placed after a crisis, making their home environment safe and accepting is a particularly important measure.