Child Trauma and Child Protection

Child trauma can occur when a child experiences or witnesses an event that threatens their physical or emotional safety. Children can be exposed to trauma through events such as domestic violence, natural disasters, war, trafficking or sexual abuse. It is important to recognise the signs of child trauma and know how to respond appropriately. Child traumatic stress can also result from having to care for or look after a sick or injured family member, or by being removed from their home as a result of child abuse or neglect.

Child protection refers to the steps taken by governments and organisations to protect children from harm. It involves preventing and responding to violence, exploitation and abuse, including commercial sexual exploitation, trafficking, forced labour and harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation/cutting and child marriage. It also includes measures to ensure that children are educated, healthy and safe, and have opportunities to develop their personalities, talents and skills, while respecting the values of their families, communities and society.

There are about 2.3 billion children in the world today, nearly a third of the global population. A child is someone who has not reached the age of majority in their country, which is usually around 18 years old, but it can vary from country to country. Children have many rights, like the right to live, be safe and enjoy a healthy life, as well as the right to education, health, a clean environment, a place to call home and protection from harm. These rights are recognised in the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is the most ratified human rights treaty in the world.

Children’s development is usually a normal process but can be disrupted by problems such as poverty, illness, conflict, lack of education and discrimination. Children who are not able to live with their parents or guardians should be looked after by people who can provide them with everything they need, such as food, water, a safe home and a good education. Governments should help families with this.

All children need a good start in life and a chance to fulfil their potential, which depends on getting the right kind of help when they need it. This could include medical treatment, support for emotional or behavioural problems, counselling, parenting skills training and help with finding employment. Governments should also ensure that children have the right to play, to take part in cultural and creative activities and to learn their own language, religion and culture.

All children, whatever their circumstances, have the right to freedom from violence and to be protected by their families, communities and governments. They should be able to express their views and feelings freely, and have the right to an education that helps them to grow up to be healthy, confident and successful adults who respect other people’s lives, beliefs and cultures. This should be free of any kind of discrimination or prejudice.