Part 1

Life Stage 1: Infants and young children 0-5 years old

Our focus on parenting and early childhood development initiatives

We know that preventing abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence during the early years gives children the best start in life. By supporting and empowering parents and caregivers across all of our programs, ChildFund aims to give infants and young children the support they need for healthy development, while reducing their risk of being harmed.

Our learning about protecting infants and young children


There remains a significant gap in the literature regarding the types of violence that infants and young children commonly experience in the countries where we work. To address this, our country offices are collecting information about the protection risks that compromise early childhood development and the measures that families and communities take in response. This is not easy; childhood violence is often “invisible,” taking place in the privacy of the home and away from the eyes of the world, making it extremely challenging to detect and address.

In this section, we present some findings from the research we have conducted for infants and young children in Life Stage 1.

For example:

“Issues of violence against infants and young children are not always a priority.”

— Page 25

What is our research telling us?

While the examples in this section provide just a small snapshot of a few selected studies, the findings give us a sense of the protection risks that infants and young children ages 0 to 5 years often face and echo what we see in other communities where we work. These studies tell us that babies, toddlers, and young children — just like older children and adolescents — are not immune to abuse, neglect, and even the worst forms of sexual violence and rape. In fact, infants and young children face unique risks due to their physical vulnerability and near total dependency on adults, particularly their caregivers. The information we are collecting is helping us shape our programs and create a baseline from which to measure our progress as we respond to the the protection needs of this age group.


Our response


We know that a child’s world revolves around their family during their early years. To give children the best start, caregivers need skills and resources to build safe families and healthy homes.

At ChildFund, we work through community partner organizations to enhance the knowledge and skills of parents and caregivers to nurture and protect infants and young children — and to provide discipline without violence. We ensure that families and communities — including community volunteers and caregivers in early childhood development (ECD) centers — understand the risks of violence to children and know how to report abuse to social service providers.

We also reinforce community responsibility for the protection of young children by strengthening community-based child protection mechanisms and linking them to formal child protection services. More indirectly, we help families to provide for and protect children through social protection measures, such as registration for cash transfers, participation in village savings and loan groups, and livelihood strengthening activities.

We are starting to see some progress:

  • In Senegal, where ChildFund provided structured playgroup sessions and Learning through Play initiatives for caregivers of children ages 0 to 3 years, participants reported abandoning violent discipline methods such as slapping, and taking better care of their children.

  • In Sri Lanka, “Lead Mothers” trained through our parenting program respond proactively to child protection concerns that they identify during household visits with vulnerable families and follow established protocols for referring children to government agencies and social services for assistance.

  • In Ethiopia, under our six-year country-wide Yekokeb Berhan Program for Highly Vulnerable Children project, our local partner organizations have played a critical role in improving the access of children 0 to 3 years to ECD services, training community groups to provide parenting education to vulnerable families, and creating referral pathways to legal, education, and health services.

  • In Bolivia, ChildFund has recently piloted a Regional Responsive Parenting Program for caregivers of infants and young children. Founded upon an analysis of the region’s best parenting practices, the program uses group work and home visits to change attitudes about violent discipline and to engage fathers in child care responsibilities. We now aim to scale up this parenting program across the region.

Below are some selected case studies that demonstrate how we are using our parenting and ECD interventions to more explicitly incorporate child protection. These detailed examples illustrate our results and lessons for ongoing and future programming.

Case studies


Case Study:

Supporting community volunteers to protect children in Kenya and Zambia

Our country offices in Kenya and Zambia are working to integrate child protection into our early childhood development initiative: Assuring the Essentials of Optimal Development for Infants and Young Children Affected by HIV and AIDS.

Launched in 2013, this program uses a cascaded training model whereby ChildFund staff train networks of community health volunteers who, in turn, provide parenting support to caregivers of infants and young children ages 0 to 5 years affected by HIV and AIDS. The purpose is to help caregivers to build nurturing relationships with their children from birth, providing their infants and young children with the stimulation and responsive care they need.


Case Study:

Early childhood development (ECD) programs as an entry point for building systems of community-based child protection in Ethiopia and Uganda

In Ethiopia and Uganda, ChildFund’s country offices supported a stronger community response to violence against young children as part of its early childhood development initiative Communities Caring for Children Program (CCCP).

This five-year program, which ended in 2016, aimed to promote positive parenting practices, establish high-quality early childhood development (ECD) centers, and strengthen the ability of communities to prevent and respond to violence against children.


Case Study:

Protecting preschool children from natural disasters in Indonesia

In an innovative project in Indonesia, ChildFund used preschools as an entry point for protecting young children during and after natural disasters.

Recognizing that young children are particularly vulnerable to abuse, neglect, exploitation, and violence in emergency situations, ChildFund integrated disaster risk reduction (DRR) measures into an early childhood development (ECD) program for children ages 4 and 5 years on the disaster-prone island of Sumba.