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A Child Rights Approach to Child Protection in Early Childhood Dr Sue Bennett Professor Pediatrics, University of Ottawa, Director Child & Youth Protection Program, Children’s Hospital Of Eastern Ontario, Canada. Objectives.

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A Child Rights Approach to Child Protection in Early Childhood

Dr Sue Bennett

Professor Pediatrics,

University of Ottawa,

Director Child & Youth Protection Program,

Children’s Hospital Of Eastern Ontario,


  • Introduction to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and a Child Rights approach to Child Protection
  • Highlight the science behind Early Childhood Development as a Social Determinant of Health
un convention on the rights of the child
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Adopted by UN GA on November 20, 1989

Entered into force September 2, 1990

193 ratifications (excluding US and Somalia)

Contains 54 articles setting international minimum standards and aspirations for proper care & treatment of all children everywhere

First international instrument covering economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights, including special protection measures

For everyone under the age 18

Children previously seen as passive victims of charity vs. active rights holders with responsibilities

three optional protocols to crc
Three Optional Protocols to CRC

On Children in Armed Conflict (2000)

On the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (2000)

On a Communications Procedure (2011)

convention s four guiding principles
Right to life, survival and development (Article 6)

Best interests of the child (Article 3.1)

Non discrimination (Article 2)

Participation (Article 12)

Convention’s Four Guiding Principles
un committee on the rights of the child
UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

Monitors how well States are meeting their obligations under the Convention

Facilitates State Party implementation

States must report initially 2 years after joining and then every 5 years thereafter

Parallel/Alternative reports from NGOs, UN Agencies, other intergovernmental organizations, academic institutionsand children themselves

18 members with 4 year mandate

Committee publishes its concerns and recommendations in “Concluding Observations”



17 General Comments

  • Aims of education
  • Role of independent national HR institutions
  • HIV/AIDS and the rights of the child
  • Adolescent health
  • General measures of implementation for the CRC
  • Treatment of unaccompanied and separated children outside their country of origin
  • Implementing child rights in early childhood
  • Right of the child to protection from corporal punishment & other cruel or degrading forms of punishment
  • Rights of children with disabilities
  • Children’s rights in juvenile justice
17 general comments
17 General Comments

11. Indigenous children and their rights under the Convention

12. Right of the child to be heard

13. Right of the child to freedom from all forms of violence

14. Right of the child to have his or her best interests taken as a primary consideration

15. Right of the child to enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health

16. On State obligations regarding the impact of the business sector on child rights

17. Right of the child to rest, leisure, play, recreational activities, cultural life and the arts

the need for change in child protection orientation
The need for change in child protection orientation
  • Children throughout the world continue to be maimed and killed and to have their quality of life and development limited, corrupted and distorted by violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation
  • There is widespread agreement that significant changes are needed in our orientation to child protection to enable us to secure the survival, well-being, health and development of all children
un secretary general s study on violence against children
UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children

Commissioned by OHCHR, UNICEF & WHO

Nature, extent, causes and consequences of violence in 5 main settings (family, schools, institutions, work and communities )

9 regional consultations with govts, ngos, professionals, public & child participation

Final report & recommendations to GA October 2006


Paulo Sergio Pinheiro

(leader of the study)

“I have been struck by the fact that violence against children in all settings and contexts is very prevalent and knows no boundaries of geography, class, politics, race or culture.”


A Child Rights approach to Child Protection frames child maltreatment as a human rights violation & not just a social or health problem

a child rights approach to child protection
A Child Rights Approach to Child Protection

Major paradigm shift in core values & practices

Respect and promotion of human dignity and physical and psychological integrity of children as rights bearing individuals rather than primarily as “victims”

Historically has been a narrow corrective emphasis on child’s bodily survival with fear of imminent harm & loss of life

Investment of full social ecology to foster “bottom-up” and “top-down” initiatives and involves international cooperation

a child rights approach to child protection1
A Child Rights Approach to Child Protection

Child participation: employing child’s present and future contributions

Children have a right to be heard and to have their views taken seriously & must be respected systematically in all decision-making processes and their empowerment and participation should be central to child protection strategies and programs

Very compatible with a public health, ecological, injury prevention and economic approach


PROTECTION of child from maltreatment



PROMOTIONof child survival, physical, mental, social, moral and spiritual health, well being, development, personal security, dignity and indeed all their rights.

article 19 of the un crc
Article 19 of the UN CRC

1. States Parties shall take all appropriatelegislative, administrative, social and educationalmeasures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.

2. Such protective measures should, as appropriate, include effective procedures for the establishment of social programmes to provide necessary support for the child and for those who have the care of the child, as well as for other forms ofprevention and for identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow-up of instances of child maltreatment described heretofore, and, as appropriate, forjudicial involvement.

timeline process for a general comment on article 19
Timeline & process for a General Comment on Article 19

April 2008:ISPCAN & IICRD conversation with

Committee on the Rights of the Child (CteRC)

Oct 2008:letter of invitation from CteRC

Jan 2009:formation of “Program

of Development Team”

programme of development team pod
‘Programme of Development Team’ (POD)

Expert Advisory Panel

Working Group





CteRC -



General Comment 13 on CRC Article 19: the right of the child to freedom from all forms of violence was adopted by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Feb 2011

gc 13 overview
GC 13 Overview

No violence against children is justifiable; all violence against children is preventable

A child rights approach to care & protection

Importance of concept of dignity, empowerment & participation of children and best interests of the child

Primary prevention through public health and other approaches

Primary position of families in child care and protection

Outlines negative impact of violence on children, their families and society as a whole

Highlights resources for implementation and need for international cooperation

Emphasises need for a national coordinating framework on violence against children

overall approach to implementation of article 19
Overall approach to implementation of Article 19

All “measures” (paragraph 1 of Article 19) need to be applied to all “stages of intervention” (paragraph 2 of Article 19) ) through a comprehensive coordinating framework on violence against children

unicef protective environment framework
UNICEF ‘Protective Environment Framework’

Monitoring & oversight

Government commitment

to fulfilling protection




Basic & targeted


Legislation &




Child protection

Capacity of those

in contact

with children





& practices



Open discussion, including

engagement of media

& civil society

Children’s life skills,

knowledge & participation



gc 13 implementation strategy
GC 13 Implementation Strategy


Resource Program

Education and Training (



global consultations on gc13 draft 3 july august 2010
Global Consultations on GC13 Draft 3(July - August 2010)

Online survey developed in 4 languages (English, French, Spanish & Portuguese) circulated to key individuals & groups in global child serving organizations

Child friendly version developed with help from Plan International

Consultation as an individual or as part of a group (virtual or face to face)

Consultations continued online for implementation feedback until Oct 31st, 2010

latin america argentina brazil chile colombia costa rica paraguay peru uruguay venezuela
LATIN AMERICAArgentina, Brazil, Chile,Colombia, Costa Rica,Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay,Venezuela


Albania, Armenia,


Belarus, Belgium,

Bosnia Herzegovina,

Estonia, France, Georgia,

Greece, Ireland, Latvia,

Lithuania, Portugal ,

Russian Federation,

Serbia, Turkey


‘Arab countries’, Australia,

Canada, Israel, USA



Malaysia, Pakistan,


Thailand, Hong Kong,

Macau, Indonesia,

Cambodia, Philippines,

Vietnam, Mongolia,

Nepal, Philippines,

Sri Lanka


Benin, Burkina Faso,

Cameroun, Cote d'Ivoire,Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Gambia, Ghana, Guinee, Guinee-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali,Morocco,Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone,South Africa, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zimbabwe

who s commissioner on social determinants of health 2005 2008
WHO’s Commissioner on Social Determinants of Health (2005-2008)

9 Knowledge Network (KN), 2005-2007

HELP designated as WHO’s KN for Early Child Development

Commissioner's Report in August of 2008

Courtesy of Dr. Ziba Vaghri, Human Early Learning Partnership; HELP


“Equity from the Start”

Courtesy of Dr. Ziba Vaghri, Human Early Learning Partnership; HELP

the commissioner identified ecd as one of the most potent social determinant of health
The Commissioner identified ECD as one of the most potent social determinant of health

Courtesy of Dr. Ziba Vaghri, Human Early Learning Partnership; HELP

the new science of child development
The New Science of Child Development

Convergence of evidence from neurobiology, epidemiology, epigenetics

1. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)

2. Stress studies

3. Epigenetics

ongoing collaboration between the CDC & Kaiser Permanente

analyses relationship between childhood trauma (ACEs) to later health & behavioral outcomes

exposure to 1 category = 1 point

points are added up = ACE score

1. The Adverse Childhood Experience Study (ACE)

Recurrent emotional abuse

Recurrent physical abuse

Contact sexual abuse

Emotional & physical neglect

Alcohol/drug abuse in household

Incarcerated household member

Household mental illness

Mother treated violently

Separated/divorced parents

ACE categories

Compared to persons with ACE score of 0, those with score 4+

x 2 smokers

x 12 attempted suicide

x 7 alcoholic

x 10 injected street drugs

x 2 sexual promiscuity (> 50 partners)

ACE Study Results



Health Threatening Behaviour




Married an alcoholic

Injection related drug abuse

Multiple sexual partners

Intercourse by 15

Teenage pregnancy and abortion

Teenage Paternity

Physical inactivity

Low Educational Achievement

Poor self-rated job performance

Absenteeism (>/= 2 days a month

Serious financial Problems

Serious job problems

Felitti VJ, Anda RF et al. Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults: The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. Am J Pres Med 1998;14(4) 245-258.


Coronary Artery Disease

Liver Disease or jaundice

Skeletal Fractures

Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (Chronic bronchitis or emphysema)

Auto immune disease

Somatic symptoms with unknown medical etiology

Depression and suicide attempts


Prescriptions for anti depressants, anti psychotics, anti anxiolytics

Impaired memory of childhood


Premature death



Adult Mental and Physical health and Developmental Programming

Pat Levitt PhD 2010-06-03



The Good, the Bad and the Damaging: Chronic Stress and the Concepts of Allostatic Load

Matthew Hill PhD 2010-06-01


use it or lose it

The more a system, or set of brain cells is activated, the more that system changes in response. The stronger the repetitions the stronger the memory.

brain development
Brain Development

Relationships are the “Active Ingredients” of Environmental Influence on Early Brain Development

Nurturing, responsive, individualized interactions build healthy brain architecture that provides strong foundation for all future learning, behavior and health

Excessive, repeated stress causes release of chemicals that impair cell growth and interfere with the formation of healthy neural circuits

brain development1
Brain Development
  • Early experiences are built into our bodies and brains--- for better or for worse ….biological embedding
  • Healthy development in the early years provides the building blocks for:
    • educational achievement
    • economic productivity
    • responsible citizenship
    • lifelong health
    • strong communities
    • successful parenting of the nextgeneration


Eight (Failed) Assumptions: What We Thought We Knew About Early Child Development

Thomas Boyce MD 2010-05-31

3. Epigenetics: the study of

environmental factors that

change whether DNA of genes will

be “expressed,” without

altering the DNA

sequence itself

Factors that change the likelihood that

A genetic ‘book’ will be read.

Champagne and Mashoodh