Understanding child protection

Child protection refers to preventing and responding to violence, exploitation, abuse, neglect and harmful practices against children (UNICEF 2021). When children cannot live safely at home, child protection systems prioritise children’s physical, mental, and psychosocial needs to safeguard their lives and futures (UNICEF 2021). Child protection functions to protect the fundamental rights of children which include safety, freedom from violence and a stable family environment (UN General Assembly 1989).

Child protection services aim to protect children from abuse and neglect in family settings. The World Health Organization (WHO 2020) defines child maltreatment (child abuse and neglect) as:

Abuse and neglect that occurs to children under 18 years of age. It includes all types of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, negligence and commercial or other exploitation, which results in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.


For a full list of references, go to References.