SAFEGUARDING - 7 July 2024

Celebrating the World Day for Child Protection Professionals

On July 7, SOS Children’s Villages celebrates World Day for Child Protection Professionals, a day started by the International Society to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect dedicated to recognizing, honouring, and thanking the professionals who tirelessly dedicate themselves to ensuring that children and young people worldwide grow up in a safe and nurturing environment. 

Child protection professionals provide care, support and protection against abuse and neglect to children and young people around the world. Balancing complex situations and dynamics, they manage heavy caseloads with often limited resources. The emotional toll of providing care and support, confronting trauma, preventing violence, and making crucial decisions can lead to stress and burnout. Their work is vital in shaping outcomes that profoundly impact children and young people’s lives.

Honouring child protection professionals, including child and youth care practitioners, means ensuring they have appropriate working conditions, supporting them with their continuous learning and development, providing access to psychosocial support services, and advocating for them to receive the professional recognition they deserve. By providing sufficient support and training opportunities to child protection professionals, we promote the provision of quality care for children and young people, thus enabling them to develop to their strongest selves.

Working conditions

Child protection professionals invest a lot of themselves into their work. Supportive working environments enable a healthy work life balance, contributing to their well-being, reducing burnout and turnover rates. Adequate resources, staffing levels, and learning and development opportunities also enhance the quality of care provided. Safe and respectful work environments foster a culture of collaboration, innovation, and continuous improvement. Moreover, fair compensation and benefits recognize the value of practitioners' contributions, promoting job satisfaction, and retention.

Learning and development

The continuous learning and development of child protection professionals is key to ensuring the children, young people, and families they work with are given the support they need. Training and awareness-raising resources developed in projects such as Safe Places, Thriving Children and Safe Behaviours recognize the essential role that these professionals have in achieving positive outcomes for children and young people. Through these projects, SOS Children’s Villages has trained over 950 child protection professionals, equipping them with the tools, knowledge, and skills to better respond to key issues such as peer-on-peer violence and supporting children who have experienced trauma.

Learning and development for child protection professionals must also be strongly informed by child and youth participation. Key messages developed by young people within these projects illustrate how important it is that the professionals who care for and work with them are equipped to understand and appropriately respond to such issues, and how insightful and impactful it is to listen to the voices of children and young people. In Safe Places, Thriving Children, young people said, “We need help, not punishment. (…) Sometimes caregivers do not understand children’s behaviour (…) Our reactions are not always good reactions, but our caregivers should see this behaviour from another angle (…).

Unfortunately, child protection professionals are often not provided with sufficient support or resources to respond to these needs. As part of a scoping exercise that was conducted within the Safe Places, Thriving Children project, approximately two thirds of professionals that work with children in alternative care reported that they had received little or no training on understanding childhood trauma or the impact of trauma on a child’s development.

Psychosocial support services

It is vital that the organisations where these professionals work create a safe and supportive environment which is trauma-informed, promotes “care for carers”, and enables a relational child and youth care approach. In addition to the provision of training programmes on how to support children and young people directly, projects such as Safe Places, Thriving Children and Safe Behaviours promote topics such as self-care for caregivers, the importance of supervision and psychosocial support, and how to run an organisational development process to create organisations that are trauma-informed in their daily work, culture, and processes.

Strengthening of child protection systems

As part of the policy recommendations developed within Safe Places, Thriving Children, SOS Children’s Villages called on governments to put into place policies and action plans and allocate appropriate financial resources for a trauma-sensitive and motivated workforce that knows how to care for children’s mental health, and is supported to do so. Child protection systems should be strengthened with the allocation of these necessary funds and resources. Without it, child protection professionals, including child and youth care practitioners, and their organisations will struggle to offer the appropriate support to vulnerable children, young people, and their families.

As we celebrate the World Day for Child Protection Professionals, let us reflect on how we can honour and recognize the work of those who provide care, support and protection against abuse and neglect to children and young people. Let’s appreciate their resilience, hard work, and dedication that makes a difference in the lives of countless children, young people, and families around the world.

Photo: Yousra Kamal, 36, an SOS Children's Villages caregiver in Sudan, has five children under her care. They fled Khartoum early in the civil war and now live in safety with her relatives in another part of Sudan. “I was so happy and grateful that we made it out alive,” says Yousra who has been a caregiver at SOS Children’s Village for seven years.



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