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Child Protection

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child poverty


Protecting Children

Children worldwide, across all ages, religions and cultures, suffer violence, exploitation and abuse every day. Those in the world’s poorest communities are especially vulnerable — and, because of their poverty, less resilient.

Often children in violent or abusive environments are unable to exercise their other important rights — to food, shelter, adequate health services, education — which further impairs their development and perpetuates the cycle of poverty.

Working together — sharing resources, knowledge and experience — we can have greater impact in the short term and work to build stronger communities and institutions for the future.

Harm to Children Takes Many Forms



Abuse can be physical, psychological, emotional or sexual. It may be harsh, humiliating corporal punishment, incest or female genital mutilation. Early and forced marriage can set the stage for a variety of abuses.



Neglect is the failure to provide for children’s basic emotional and physical needs, whether deliberately or carelessly. Abandonment leaves children vulnerable to institutionalization, exploitation and other hazards.



Exploitation is the use of a child for another person’s advantage. This includes child labor; child trafficking; sexual exploitation, including child pornography, child prostitution, early marriage and sex tourism; and, in many countries, recruitment into armed forces.



Violence can come to a child through individuals, groups or the state and takes many forms: forced displacement and separation, torture, mutilation, physical punishment, rape and other forms of gender-based violence.

At ChildFund, we focus our work on children’s right to protection throughout their lives, tailoring our efforts to the distinct needs of each age group. For infants and toddlers, the primary risk is violence in the home. School-age children often face violence in their schools or are forced to work in the worst forms of child labor. Before they reach young adulthood, girls face the likelihood of child marriage and dropping out of school, and boys are at increased risk for gangs, violence and suicide.

ChildFund’s approach to keeping children safe and protected envisions children and their environment as a series of rings of protection with the child at the center. The family is the first ring, surrounded by the community and then local institutions, which are encompassed by national and then international structures. ChildFund’s efforts touch all of these levels of protection, because each environmental support reinforces the others and because protecting children requires all these levels.

  • We help children to understand the law and their own rights and responsibilities. We help children become agents of change, advocating for themselves and others.
  • We work to strengthen families’ abilities to promote their children’s well-being within safe environments. This means educating caregivers about how to help advance their children’s development, and it also includes social and economic strengthening to build family stability.
  • We educate members of the community and help raise awareness in communities by creating and strengthening mechanisms that support children’s well-being and protection, such as child protection committees, guide mothers and parent-teacher associations, teaching them to make effective use of local institutions responsible for preventing and responding to abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence that may affect their children. We work with decision makers at the national level to support governments in upholding international treaties, laws, services and organizations in promoting the best interests of the child.
  • We advocate for international policy changes, calling upon world leaders to make protecting children a global priority.

Child Protection in the United States


Although the United States has some of the highest economic and social living standards in the world, many segments of the population, including children, are unable to access the opportunities higher status offers. Among the most developed countries, the U.S. has one of the highest rates of child poverty (22 percent), and poverty rates for our children of color are even higher. Growing up poor increases the likelihood that children will experience violence, neglect and/or abuse, which evidence shows can have damaging and lifelong physical, cognitive and emotional effects.

ChildFund is launching a new initiative in the U.S. to focus our efforts on one area of critical need: child protection and the impact of violence on growth and learning. This new initiative will support children through a multi-pronged approach:

Youth Engagement icon

A Youth Engagement Program that puts problem-solving into the hands of young people and empowers them to view themselves as leaders and change agents.

Parent Initiatives icon

Parent Initiatives that reinforce family as the best place for the protection and development of the child.

Children's Champion Network icon

A Children's Champion Network that advocates for protecting and promoting children’s best interests.

Community icon

Community Mobilization, to invigorate and build solidarity among community members around keeping all children safe.

SPOTLIGHT: Child Labor


Learn More

  1. Free Charters Report
    Children's priorities for the post-2015 development agenda.


  2. The Costs and Economic Impact of Violence Against Children
    ODI Report: The Cost and Economic Impact of Violence Against Children


Our Approach to Child Protection


Child Protection in Emergencies

Child protection is at the center of ChildFund’s emergency response programs.

man with ChildFund hat and shirt volunteer

Although our emergency responses often include providing food and non-food items to those in need, ChildFund also focuses on providing psychosocial support for children and their families, who are often distressed in the aftermath of a disaster. By setting up Child-Centered Spaces, we provide safe places and resources to help children cope with immediate and long-term effects of emergencies, where children can be cared for and have room to be children again. Just as important, however, Child-Centered Spaces also serve as a mechanism for children and families to link with formal child protection services at a time when children are most at risk for abuse, harassment and exploitation as their families struggle to rebuild their shattered lives.

woman teaching crafts to children

Community structures and services may also become dysfunctional due to an emergency. ChildFund also helps to reactivate and strengthen these mechanisms so that they once again serve to protect children. At times, as during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, we also help with family tracing, and we work to ensure that children find their way back into family care, whether through safe and permanent reunification with their families or in foster homes.