WHAT IS AT STAKE?
Violations of the child’s right to protection, in addition to being human rights violations, are massive, under-recognized and underreported barriers to child survival and development. Children subjected to violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect are at risk of:
- Shortened lives
- Poor physical and mental health
- Educational problems (including dropping out of school)
- Poor parenting skills later in life
- Homelessness, begging and displacement
Our child protection service provides child welfare services, and respond to reported concerns about a child’s safety and care. Wherever possible, the department works to keep families together, offering counselling and support services to help families help themselves.In situations where children need to live away from the family home for their own safety, every effort is made to place them with extended family members. Receives and assesses notifications from people who believe on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of protection. Provides advice to people who report such concerns on what to do; where to go to for help. We thus promote the rights of the child by keeping children safe –ensuring that no child accessing our services is intentionally exposed to harm of any kind. These three are fundamental to our mandate:
- Protecting children from maltreatment
- Preventing the impairment of children’s health or development
- Ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of the Cameroon legislation.
The role of our legal adviser
- Investigates matters where it is believed that a child is at risk of significant harm with the support of our legal adviser.
- Refers children and families to services that assist in providing the ongoing safety and wellbeing of children.
- Take matters before the Children’s Court if the child’s safety cannot be assured within the family.
- Supervise children on legal orders granted by the Children’s Court.
What happens after a report is assessed?
A number of options are taken after making an assessment:
- We take no further action, if the child is safe and there is no need for further involvement.
- We refer the family to support services if the child is safe, but the family could use some help. Services are based on needs, and could include counseling and parenting classes.
- We offer youth services if the concerns are regarding a youth ages 16 to 18, to develop a plan to reduce risk and help the youth access the support of relatives, friends and community services.
- We conduct a family development response assessment with the family’s agreement, which evaluates the family’s strengths and needs to care safely for the child, and with their input develops a plan to provide them with support services.
- We conduct a child protection investigation with the support of our legal adviser.
- Rooted in child development;
- Informed by evidence;
- Appropriate to achieve desired outcomes for children;
- Multi-disciplinary and multi-agency as appropriate;
- A continuing process, not an event;
- Ensuring equality of opportunity;
- Involving children and their families;
- Building on strengths as well as identifying difficulties.
CHCHB as a key step in meeting her commitment to protect children from abuse has recruited and engaged the services of a Child Protection Officer who works in her Services for Persons with Disabilities. The Child Protection Officer has the mandate to ensure the Board meets her commitment in protecting children by elaborating the following:
We ensure that all staff and others are aware of the problem of child abuse and the risks to children. We equally through radio, brochures, posters and flyers, create awareness of the importance of collective action in making environments safe for all children everywhere both in our facilities and beyond.
We ensure, through awareness and good practice, that staff and others minimize risks of abuse to children. By this, all staff both old and new, sign a Commitment Form pledging to protect and not to intentionally engage in any harmful behavior towards children in their care. We equally ensure that all our volunteers, visitors and interns take same commitment during their stay within our facilities. We ensure that our partners have child protection policies in place ensure their environments are safe for all children. We equally carry out risk assessments of both our facilities and our partners to assess potential risks of harm to children and seek to minimize them.
We ensure that staff and others are clear what steps to take where concerns arise regarding the safety of children (See Responding).
We ensure that action is taken to support and protect children where concerns arise regarding possible abuse. For internal cases meaning those occurring within our facilities, we take up front measures in providing both psychosocial and legal support where and where necessary to the abused children and their families. For external cases meaning those occurring within the community and reported to our facilities, we document and refer them to competent authorities and/or other services as appropriate. We are also committed to:
- Treating children and young people with respect and dignity
- Always listening to what a child or young person is saying
- Valuing each child and young person
- Recognizing the unique contribution each individual can make
- Encouraging and praising each child or young person
Child abuse is not tolerated by the CBCHB, nor is in possession of or access to child pornography. The CBCHB by no means knowingly engages, directly or indirectly, anyone who poses an unacceptable risk to children.
Cameroon is a signatory to the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child. Hence, CBCHB is committed to the rights and obligations of the convention. CBCHB equally recognizes that some children such as children living with disabilities, the underprivileged and those whose parents are HIV positive as well as themselves living with HIV, are particularly vulnerable.
To effectively manage risks to children, CBCHB requires the support and cooperation of all her institutions and services. Key partners of CBCHB must meet the terms of the child protection policy and will be accountable through reports for complying with it.
Mindful of the fact that it is not possible to completely eliminate all risk of child abuse, careful management can reduce the incidence of child abuse associated with planning, policy making and service delivery. This policy therefore takes into account a range of recognized risks to children.