Part 4

Working to support protective systems

Our focus on working at all levels of the child protection system

While our Life Stage Approach helps us to design programs tailored to the vulnerabilities of children, adolescents, and youth, we recognize the reality is more complex. There are many factors that converge and influence the childhood experience; however, some forms of abuse, neglect, exploitation, and violence — and some protective elements — cut across all age groups. If we are to significantly reduce children’s vulnerability to abuse, neglect, exploitation, and violence, we must target our efforts to all of the people, policies, and services that can protect children by working at all levels of the child protection system.

Our learning about working to support protective systems


We understand the importance of protecting children from abuse, neglect, exploitation, and violence at every stage of childhood in order to maximize their development and ability to reach their full potential. Our programs and studies also confirm the importance of working at all levels of the child protection system.

This section explores what we are learning as we deepen our protection work with children across their first decades of life – supporting their developmental trajectory as they grow from healthy and secure infants to educated and confident children, to skilled and involved youth.

Already, our experience is beginning to show that:

“Most communities have an informal mechanism in place to support children who experience violence, but these are not always functional.”

— Page 71

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 how children experience violence differently depending on their age and gender, and how community-based mechanisms may not always be functioning in a way that truly meets the needs of these different populations. However, we are also seeing evidence that we can be an effective bridge between children and decision-makers at the community and national levels who have the power to introduce real reform to better support and protect children. 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 children as the transition from infancy to adulthood.


Our response


Working across life stages, our goal is to contribute to broader social change by supporting the development of child protection systems that can provide seamless support to children as they grow; strengthening the interface between formal and informal protection systems; and influencing policy and implementation to the benefit of children, youth and families.

We do this at different levels:

  • Locally, we build the capacity of community members, including children and youth, supporting them to raise their concerns and share learning with local and sub-national level officials.

  • Nationally, we use our evidence to work with governments to create, strengthen, implement, and fund policies that address concerns relevant to children’s protection and well-being.

  • Globally, ChildFund contributes to advocacy efforts as a member of the ChildFund Alliance, ensuring that commitments made in the Sustainable Development Goals become a reality.

We are starting to see some progress:

  • In India, ChildFund has been selected by the National Child Protection Commission to develop national Standard Operating Procedures to support police in responding to harm and violence against children

  • As a member of the National Partnership to End Violence Against Children in Sri Lanka, ChildFund has engaged in high-level discussions with the Ministry of Education to address violent discipline in schools.

  • In Indonesia, ChildFund has been working to address illegal adoption and trafficking of children by advocating for stronger government commitment to preventing violence against children, anti-trafficking laws and policies, and improved family welfare services

  • In the USA, ChildFund has joined World Vision and Save the Children in the End Violence Against Children Taskforce to work with Congress to advance policies that prevent and address violence against children worldwide.

  • At the global level, in 2017, ChildFund came together with other child-focused organizations to successfully advocate for the inclusion of Target 16.2, a specific goal to end violence against children in the new United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Through the following case studies, we examine how our country offices in Uganda and the Philippines have targeted forms of violence that cut across all life stages and have successfully strengthened the child protection system through direct action at the community level and advocacy initiatives at the national level. They highlight how we are translating our deep knowledge of communities into broader systematic reform and social change, enabling us to have a lasting impact in the lives of children beyond our program communities and the tenure of our projects.

Case studies


Case Study:

Combating child labor in the sugarcane industry in the Philippines

Since 2003, ChildFund has been an active member of a consortium to eliminate exploitative child labor in the sugarcane industry in 11 provinces of the Philippines. The most recent four-year phase of this program, ABK3 LEAP, reached 54,000 children and youth before it ended in 2016. The project led to a substantial reduction in the percent of children in exploitative labor: from 94% in 2011 to 16% in 2016.


Case Study:

Building a system of care for children in Uganda

We have long known that, in most cases, children are best cared for and protected within families. In 2013, Uganda had 57,000 children living in child-care institutions and 10,000 on the streets. Since then, ChildFund has been leading a consortium of agencies in an ambitious three-year initiative, Deinstitutionalization of Orphans and Vulnerable Children (DOVCU), to improve the safety and well-being of children outside of family care in 12 districts. Working in close collaboration with the Government of Uganda, we have been implementing national reforms of the child-care system (guided by the Alternative Care Framework), which aim to keep children with families and out of institutions.