PROTECTIVE FAMILY ENVIRONMENT
There is a great deal of research into the risk factors for child abuse as well as the protective factors that increase children’s resilience. And the answer is fairly simple: Children need trustworthy adults to love and protect them. Adults who see and acknowledge them so that they can grow into independent, confident individuals who are able to give and receive love.
Every child has a right to be cared for by their parents. Families are usually the best places for children to grow up healthy and reach their full potential. If this is not possible, however, a child is entitled to grow up in a family setting. Children who are separated from their parents are more often exposed to violence, exploitation and neglect. Therefore, it is extremely important to support families who, for whatever reason, are vulnerable. The parents may be alone, abuse alcohol or other drugs, or live in a violent relationship. Or they might be so poor that they cannot afford to care for their children.
How Childhood works to support every child’s right to a protective family environment:
Many of Childhood’s project partners provide support to vulnerable families. One of them is One Sky Foundation in Thailand, which works in a difficult-to-access area along the border with Myanmar. Support for children and families in the area is practically non-existent, since the nearest social services are several hours away. The only option for families that are unable to support their children and provide them with schooling and medical care was the large number of unregistered private orphanages. One Sky’s family support program offers support to families to help them stay together, by helping them become self-sufficient and contributing money for school uniforms and schooling. The organization runs outreach programs in small villages throughout the area, enabling early identification of child abuse and families in need of support. They also conduct advocacy campaigns to raise awareness of children’s rights and sexual abuse.
Childhood has extensive experience of supporting expectant and new parents to enable early identification and appropriate intervention for families with problems, thus helping parents form a connection with their child. We support the Philani Nutrition Center in South Africa, which has developed a home visitation program for new mothers living in the informal settlements surrounding Cape Town.
Philani educates and supervises mothers from similar areas who have succeeded in providing a safe environment for their children. They make regular home visit to new families, where they weigh and measure the children and offer advice and support. A safe and trusting atmosphere is created by focusing on the child’s growth, presenting opportunities for conversations about newborn nursing, feeding and sleeping patterns as well as more complex issues such as HIV and AIDS, substance abuse and violence. Philani can quickly identify families with children at risk of abuse and who need help. Many years of support from Childhood enabled Philani to develop a model that is now funded by local authorities and reaches thousands of families in South Africa. The model has also spread to Ethiopia and Swaziland and several research studies have confirmed excellent results for both the children and their mothers. Childhood is now working to promote the spread of parenting support programs like Philani’s throughout South Africa.