[Individual articles from this issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full Summer 2016 issue can be found on MCC’s website.]
Child protection is defined by UNICEF as preventing and responding to violence, exploitation and abuse against children. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed 25 years ago and ratified by more countries than any other human rights treaty in history (all countries except Somalia and the United States), provides a common legal and ethical international framework for protecting children.
In 2013, MCC’s boards joined this international movement by approving a protection of children and youth policy framework, which aims to ensure the safety of all children and youth who interact with MCC program. In addition to giving directives for MCC’s own child protection policy, the framework calls for all partner organizations who implement MCC-supported projects with direct participants under the age of 18 to develop their own policies and procedures to ensure that children and youth are safe from abuse while participating in partner initiatives. MCC assumes that partner organizations share the goal of protecting children, even if they do not yet have formal child protection policies and procedures in place. MCC is committed to supporting partners as they formalize such policies and procedures, while recognizing that robust child protection is a long-term process that engages communities and is grounded in specific contexts.
Recent research into the long-term effects of childhood abuse has only increased the urgency for child protection work. One of the most significant findings is the long-term effects of child abuse on neurological development. Child abuse at a young age impairs brain development, with lasting implications, including increased likelihood of abusive behavior later in life, criminal activities, substance abuse and negative health outcomes, including heart disease, liver disease, diabetes and depression. These individual effects translate into long-term societal costs related to physical and mental health care, domestic violence, criminal activity and strain on education systems.
The Adverse Childhood Experiences study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in collaboration with Kaiser Permanente on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) represents one of the largest investigations of childhood abuse and later-life health and well-being. A TED-talk by Nadine Burke Harris powerfully presents these findings and makes a moving, impassioned plea to confront childhood trauma and to support prevention and treatment efforts. The ACE study analyzes the impact of childhood abuse and other adverse childhood experiences which is summarized in the graphic below.
Many factors—at individual, family and community levels—increase the risk of child abuse. At the same time, protective factors can buffer children from abuse. Strengthening protective factors is just as important as reducing risk factors. The CDC identifies one potential protective factor as “communities that take responsibility for preventing abuse.” MCC’s current focus on working with partners to develop child protection policies is aimed at helping communities take this responsibility, with the belief that these efforts can help prevent abuse and can help children who experience abuse to be resilient. This issue of Intersections captures some of the lessons MCC and its partners have learned in this long-term process of ensuring the protection of all children who participate in MCC-supported programs.
Lynn Longenecker is MCC education coordinator.
CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study
TED Talk — Nadine Burke Harris http://www. youtube.com/watch?v=95ovIJ3dsNk
Child Abuse and Neglect: Risk and Protective Factors http://www. www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childmaltreatment/riskprotectivefactors.html
UNICEF and Convention on the Rights of the Child http://www.unicef.org/crc/
Child Welfare Information Gateway: Long-Term Consequences of Child Abuse
and Neglect http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/long_term_consequences.pdf
Child Welfare Information Gateway: Risk and Protective Factors for Child Abuse and
Child Welfare Information Gateway: Protective Factors Approaches in Child Welfare