How is technology helping communities protect children? Share your examples.

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How is technology helping communities protect children? Share your examples.

In this discussion thread, we’d like you to share specific examples of successful applications of technology for the purpose of child protection. Please include information on:

  • The goal of the specific initiative and how it fit into a larger child protection strategy
  • The technology tool(s) used
  • The stakeholders
  • How the initiative was implemented
  • The impact
  • If possible, include any ideas for how this approach could be used in other contexts.

Other questions to think about and respond to:

  • Which new technologies are already accessible and being used by various stakeholders especially children, adolescents and youth; endogenous or institutional? (Various stakeholders could include children, parents and caretakers, intermediaries, broader communities, local child protection committees and ‘safe houses’, local institutions, social workers, experts, civil servants, governments, national and international NGOs, local and national law enforcement agencies.)
  • How are children and young people using these tools to protect themselves or to become better informed about ways to protect or keep themselves safe?
  • What information and communication systems are currently in use at child and family, community, district, national, transnational /regional and global levels for supporting or protecting children and can these systems be improved, promoted or better accessed using new ICTs such as mobile phones?

  • Are there existing scalable, replicable or adaptable examples of the use of ICTs in this area we can learn from? What were the successes, challenges, failures and lessons/good practices?

Share your examples, experiences and ideas by adding a new comment to this discussion thread or by replying to existing comments.

Child Helplines

Hi everyone,

Just going to do a test post here because I just had the horrible experience of losing several hours of work I put into a post for here with links and stats and all the bells and whistles- only to lose the lot when I hit Preview....seems my browser may not have been in compatability mode with this page, so we'll see what happens now...(May be worth copying and pasting your posts to a word doc before hitting save just in case you get the same problem I have- only wish I had thought of that before :o((

Avoid using "preview"

Yikes! I'm so sorry this happened to you. I know how frustrating it is to work on a post and then have it disappear!  I will look into it to see if there's something wrong with the site. Maybe we should avoid using Preview. Sometimes our technology is unpredictable. 

Hey Kristin, the problem

Hey Kristin, the problem was more than the Preview function- I didn't realise that my Windows Explorer version wasn't compatible with the forum software and so was having lots of problems writing in the text box prior to hitting Preview....once I clicked the weird looking "cracked" browser compatibility icon up on the address bar, the problem was solved- just too late for that first post sadly :o(

Google Chrome

Philippa Hawke wrote:

 I didn't realise that my Windows Explorer version wasn't compatible with the forum software 

Same problems here, I use Google Chrome now and that works very well! 

How to fix IE9 problem

Philippa Hawke wrote:

..once I clicked the weird looking "cracked" browser compatibility icon up on the address bar, the problem was solved

For anyone else experiencing problems using Internet Explorer 9 and this dialogue, please follow these instructions to fix the problem. Thanks!

So- where to begin....

So- where to begin.... again...? I'm sorry this will be much shorter than my original post as I'm running out of time now, so will post some more about child helplines tomorrow, and I'm sure Peter from BRIS will fill in many details too.

Child Helplines have been operating in many countries in many forms for many years. The global membership network - Child Helpline International - has 119 full members in 100 countries and another 48 associate members in 42 countries who are working towards developing child helplines as key components of their country's child protection system. Members operate in alignment with the principles of the Conventions on the Rights of the Child. They have been using the technology available to children in their countries given their countries' telecommuncation and ICT infrastructure capacities and appropriate to their cultural and political circumstances and constraints. Child helplines aim to be operate as free services to children, available 24/7 where possible and in the case of countries like Australia- able to offer gender matches between callers and counsellors, ongoing counselling with the same counsellor and case management and wrap-around care services for young people at high risk of harm.

Media offered  to encourage children to ask for help include phone, email and real-time web chat, sms text from mobile phones and mobile phone applications. In addition, many child helplines use their websites to actively communicate with their youth populations to offer self help information about youth relevant issues as universal and early intervention strategies. These websites and mobile applications can create user-friendly pathways to web - counselling where required.

Child helplines can operate for individual children as rescue and retrieval services in countries with under or undeveloped child protection systems and child centred referral pathways into formal child protection systems in more developed countries. In addition, members of Child Helpline International contribute the data collected by counsellors about every contact to an annual global report outlining the issues concerning young people and used as an advocacy tool for policy development and decision-making at national, regional and international levels. What makes the child helplines' story unique is that the issues are described from the perspective of the child rather than the assessment of the professional adult (although obviously the professional assessment is used to determine Duty of Care situations and the appropriate responses needed).

The most recent CHI global data report "Connecting to Children" describes not only the demographics of children contacting child helplines, but the issues they asked for help for.

In Australia, Kids Helpline commenced as a national child-centred telephone counselling service under the auspices of the De La Salle Brothers 21 years ago (and incorporated as part of the BoysTown organisation about 7 years ago). Ten years ago we branched out into email and real-time web chat to encourage higher rates of help-seeking for those young people too scared to disclose issues over the phone and face to face. In 2011 we received about 35,000 attempts to contact the service per month and were able to answer about half of those (about quarter of a million contacts over the course of the year). Almost 30,000 of those contacts were via email and web chat. Issues brought for counselling range from distress over relationships with family, peers and partners through to child abuse, bullying, mental health, self injury and suicide. The 2011 Australian Overview of Issues Concerning Children and Young People published by Kids Helpline contains more information about the methods young people use to ask for help, including the rising use of mobile phones  (about 70% of all calls now).

If you go to the list of CHI members you can see if their are either associate partners or helplines that you would like to contact to discuss potential or stronger partnerships.

Tomorrow I will post some more about funding and operational issues if anyone is interested.....?

Child Helplines in a development context

Dear Phillipa

Thanks for an interesting post. I am interested to hear a bit more about one of the things you mentioned:

Philippa Hawke wrote:

Child helplines can operate for individual children as rescue and retrieval services in countries with under or undeveloped child protection systems and child centred referral pathways into formal child protection systems in more developed countries.

Could you explain a bit more about how this would work and how it would relate to the formal referral pathways (even those that are not well developed)?



Role of Child Helplines in a country's child protection system

Hi Michael :o)

As just one example of a child helpline taking on the role of actually "retrieving" and/or "rescuing" children I am thinking of Childline India (fully aware that it would be so much better if a rep from there was answering this question)......However I have visited their Delhi office and been confronted with the wall of filing cabinets filled to overflowing with tactical rescue plans and reports of rescues often carried out in tandem with local police (after much helpline advocacy and education campaigns to assist police to understand the concept of child rights).

So when a call comes in from either an adult reporting that they have noticed a child working in say a circus or factory (these children having been removed/bought as toddlers from their parents under a range of guises for tiny amounts of money), or the child themself who has seen some of the many forms of street advertising strategies used by the childline (like puppet shows demonstrating how to use the phone at a local market stall), ChildLine India will commence developing and carrying out a rescue plan. So essentially they employ staff who are prepared to not only answer phones and do counselling, referrals and information with children remotely, but are also prepared to put down the phone and go out into what can be quite confronting situations to remove children to places of safety.

Again in the case of India- the places of safety are few and far between of course, and without ID, the child cannot be confirmed by the courts as a "welfare recipient" (or a similar term I think...?) and therefore cannot be authorised to be placed in a formal shelter. So Childline India also converts its call-centre at night into a refuge with mattresses on the floor and cooks the childen meals in the hugest soup pot I have ever seen in the middle of the room! Then the battle to find the child's origins, birthdate etc, and get them some ID begins - which the helpline also takes on.......

This model is essentially a comprehensive case management model- an holistic needs assessment is carried out with the individual child and then a formal case plan is developed that will address as many of the identified needs as possible. In developing countries, the resources will mainly need to come from the NGO sector, and often the organisation that has developed the child helpline service will fulfil many of the service needs themselves.

I know there are many other child helplines in developing countries such as Zimbabwe and Thailand that work under similar models....Their partnerships with other NGOs are profound in order to carry this work out when the government infrastructure is minimal/ not supportive/non-existent.

As for developed countries like Australia- we operate under priority principles of empowering children to determine their own life paths and so when a child discloses say child abuse that is at the level of requiring removal from their home, we talk with them about the existence of state government child safety departments/ their roles and some possible outcomes that might happen if they were to tell their story to them as well as us (the helpline). The decision to "notify" is made wherever possible with the agreement of the child (much counselling having often been undertaken first so that the child understands their life will not change without action), and at least with transparently explaining the concept of our Duty of Care where the child is very frightened of notifying and is considering staying in a high risk situation.

Where the child has agreed to a notification and under formal MOUs Kids Helpline has with each state authority,  we are then able to use "3-way" tele- conferencing technology to phone the child protection office and the child can then tell their story themself while the counsellor stays on the line as a supportive person who is also able to fill in gaps where the phone "Intake assessment" is missing vital data that the child has shared earlier with the counsellor. In addition, the counsellor will advocate through the call if necessary for the child's views to be incorporated into any removal plan, including alternative placement preferences wherever possible.

 This is what I am referring to when I speak of child-centred  referral pathways into formal child protection systems. In Australia, our case management role is limited to identifying the range of needs and then referring onto other services- many of them supplied by the government, rather than the helpline itself supplying the resource.

I hope this answers some of your questions, but please get back to me if this is off track...?

Role of Child Helplines in a country's child protection system

Hi Phillipa

Thanks - it certainly helps to udnerstand better how that part of it works.

In a sense it is a type of emergency work that we would normally associate with humanitarian situations, conflict or natural disasters. As such it presents the same dilemma that most emergency interventions have; should you, as an NGO, step in and carry out the job of the formal protection systems in individual cases, or should you try to help the formal duty bearers to develop/strengthen formal protection systems? It is difficult to do both for a number of reasons. First of all, costs. Individual case management is very costly, in particular when done outside of formal systems. Building up local systems is cheaper and thus enables reaching more children. Secondly, as we outsiders (whether we are foreign NGOs or funders of local NGOs) take that role upon us, we allow local authorities, the duty bearers, to say that those issues are taken care of by CHI (or WCH or Care or Save the Children, etc.) and thus that they themselves can allocate funds for other purposes. This hampers the development of local capacities in child protection and also supports the (wrong) idea that protection of children from abuse, violence, and exploitation is something that is not a core responsibility of local authorities.

On the other hand, if we do not make such emergency type of intervention, that particular child may not recieve any kind of assistance. This is, of course, the humanitarian imperative.

In Northern Uganda, where we work, a very large number of NGOs worked during the time of war, and many focused on children because the situation for children was particularly horrendous in both the camps and for those who were abducted by armed forces. We have now had peace for a good number of years. The emergency is over and we are also to some extent beyond the post-conflict phase and well into a development phase. And yet it is still very much seen as the role of NGOs to protect children. At central government level there is growing commitment to taking on the responsibility, but at local level, both community members and the local parts of the referral systems, it is still very much the case that NGOs are looked at as both first and last resort when it comes to responding to child protection cases. This is an untenable situation and one in which the reality is that most cases end up never being referred and children thus never recieving any assistance.

There is a direct link between the role of outsiders taking over the responsibilities of parents, communities, police, health workers, social workers, prosecutors, etc. during the emergency phase and the current situation with a broken referral system. It is not the only reason, but it is cearly a big, perhaps the biggest factor.

My worry is thus the emphasis on the humanitarian imperative in a development context where we ought to be buidling proper referral systems owned, managed, operated and funded by the proper duty bearers, risks underminging long-term efforts.

A child helpline depends on the ability to refer children to assistance, and depends on that system to function, otherwise there is little a helpline can do. If the helpline also takes over the actual response and case management, where does that leave the development of the formal referral system?



better reporting, but not better response?

Hi Michael,

You raise a really good point here - 

A child helpline depends on the ability to refer children to assistance, and depends on that system to function, otherwise there is little a helpline can do.

I think one of the big questions now that new technologies enable people to report or 'complain' more easily is exactly that. How are we also working to support will, responsiveness and capacity of governments to provide sustainable responses to some of these child protection issues. We can easily and exponentially increase the number of complaints coming in by making SMS or other means a channel for reporting, but how do we also increase response capacity.

If we enable a better reporting system, but we don't concern ourselves with a better response system, then we can create more apathy (I reported something and nothing happened, why should I report again?). I think it's important to think through unintended consequences when we are bringing in new processes or tools in any project. And this is not always easy to do as unintended consequences are often also very unexpected!

One other thing with reporting is that we can use the information gathered, eg, via SMS reporting or a child helpline reporting, to develop and design better programs. So maybe another question is how to use the data for advocacy with governments, or perhaps how to engage governments with the design and data collection in these projects so that there is government ownership, which can maybe help increase the will to actually do something to put resources towards better child protection systems.

Another question is how to connect local child protection systems with national ones, and can ICTs play a role there? I don't have an answer but very interested in what others think!


better reporting, but not better response?

Hi Linda

I agree completely with the fear of creating apathy. In fact I think it goes further than that. If we encourage reporting into a broken system, we risk doing harm to children. I have seen examples of that in Liberia where children were encouraged to report, and when they did so, police did sometimes make an arrest. However, in the province I worked in, the police did not have a jail to keep the suspect in, nor did they have a prosecutor to take him to the court, that also did not exist. In fact the police did not even have paper to write the report on. Hence they would release the suspect after roughing him up a bit (for lack of any other course of action available I guess). This meant that a very disgruntled perpetrator would come back. He might be the neighbour of that child and would take out his dissatisfaction on the child.

Not only did that do harm to children, it also made sure that other children learned the wrong lesson - it is dangerous to report.

In other words, it is very important that we do not put the cart before the horse. Better reporting is important for a number of reasons, but better reporting without a good child protection system is not only having little effect, it can in fact cause harm to childre. The starting point should be to make sure that there are well functioning child protection systems, nationally and locally and that those systems are related.

The last point is what leads to the question you end with, which I think is a very interesting one. It is certainly the case that one of the major difficulties in child protection is the linkages between local systems and national systems. That is in many places the weak link. I too would be very interested to hear of anyone with some good experience there.

Hyper-developed CP systems

I absolutely understand this position Michael and your frustration at the ethical conundrums faced when trying to decide the best models for a country's CP sytem.  When I talk to people working in child helplines all over the world I am constantly amazed at the shifting interplays between government/not for profit and now increasingly- "for profit" sectors in shaping their CP networks. Right now in Durban South Africa the members of Child HelpIine International are having their biennial meeting where they are discussing this very issue in 2 separate sessions- one for developed countries and one for developing countries as to how and where a child helpline should position itself in its country's unique CP system.

A few thoughts....

  • In Australia the transfer of social services to the non-government sector (and I mean anything that is NOT government- so any small, large or medium local charity, or not- for profit, or private "for profit" ,  continues apace.....Here the government is taking its cue from the UK, meaning they do to some extent own the financial responsibility for running a child protection system, but then contract out almost all the direct service delivery (except the actual taking of  the notifications/reports)to anyone who will take it on. So it kind of begs the question- Who are the "proper duty bearers" when the dominant political ideology is that a government's role is to find the cheapest way to get things done- and that generally means not by them..... And anyway- is a government child protection worker any more appropriate or capable of intervening in damaged families than a charity worker (a local - not "outsider" as you put it) who works for a huge multi- million dollar charity, is fully qualified, trained and supervised and works under mandates to be child centred at all times?  I can't help thinking of a colleague in the Thailand childline who told me about following up a referral to their govt CP service where the social worker had bowed to a parent's "cultural" right to treat their child any way they saw fit and had left the home without removing the child. My collegue when he found out, roared back into that government office and demanded the social worker come get in his car and drive back to that house and remove the child immediately! So someone has to keep tabs on "the system"...regardless of who's running it.....
  •  So much depends on the society's mass internalisation of the concept of child rights and children's need for protection by the citizens of a country. Teaching a society that has perhaps lost an earlier mutually agreed regard for children (not necessarily the same as a parent's love and regard for their own child, but a sense of collective responsibility for all children) has to be approached from every possible entry point- child helplines can start with the child themself, counsellors talking to those who phone or text/email about their right to have their needs not only considered, but be paramount - that parents and society make mistakes and behave badly and when they do it is not the child's fault. Such ideas can take a long time for children to incorporate into their thinking when everything around them tells them the opposite, (which is why the ability for a helpline to offer ongoing counselling to a child is so important). But then the child can start to educate their own family and local communities about their rights..... And yes...even as I am writing this I am thinking of Malala Yousufzai and her courage in Pakistan...and the consequences for some of speaking up.....
  • As per yours and Linda's comments below.... Australian state governments still take responsibility for accepting notifications or reports, but their intake offices are collapsing under the weight of these ......One of the problems we now have after the concept of child rights has been deeply embedded in society for many years is a hyper-developed child protection systems - or as you and Linda perhaps more accurately pointed out - hyper developed reporting systems. Queensland is in the middle of our third Commission of Inquiry in 15 years into our child protection system because the consequences of mandatory reporting has created chaos. Residential care homes were replaced by foster familiy systems 20 years ago, but there have never been enough foster families to keep pace with demand. I think that charity run/government funded residential care homes will return but none of this will ever replace supporting and educating parents in the first place so they can understand and meet their children's needs themselves....
  •  Despite extensive knowledge about the economic and human benefits of investing in prevention and early intervention all Australian State and Territory resource allocations remains skewed towards tertiary interventions. Political reactions to media spotlights on high profile tragedies have contributed to the graduated introduction of mandatory reporting for all child related professions across the country over the past twenty years (the media has played a huge role in educating the public about child rights)....But this super-tuned community awareness has contributed to collapses in government frontline service response capacity. Nearly one quarter of all children in the state of Queensland are now known to the child protection system. (and here are some New South Wales state data showing increasing reporting trends )
  • The current Queensland Government Child Protection Inquiry is an opportunity to question the drivers that are immobilizing the system, leading to the under-inclusion of some children and families and the over-inclusion of others. In such a highly politicised environment I see a child helpline as carrying 3 major roles: primary and secondary interventions and advocacy. An “over-developed” statutory child protection system throws a challenge to the community sector, particularly child helplines, to strengthen their policy advocacy efforts with research based evidence. It has fallen on non-profit organizations here, along with academic and industry partners to shoulder the critical but long-term burden of collecting evidence of the effectiveness of funding early intervention strategies. At the same time, they need to continue to provide supportive and empowering referral portals to the tertiary system for those children at high risk of harm and then long-tern counselling and support to those children during their placements.
forms of street advertising

Philippa Hawke wrote:

the many forms of street advertising strategies used by the childline (like puppet shows demonstrating how to use the phone at a local market stall),

Hi Philippa,

I'm very interested in some examples of how you do street advertising.

For the research that we are involved in regarding ICTs and Children on the Move, one of the things we'll want to think about is how children who are moving (unaccompanied or accompanied, trafficked, volutarily moving for work, moving because of conflict or climate change, etc.) are able to access information or help.

A challenge is that we don't know what access to ICTs/mobiles these different groups actually have - and I know it will differ from place to place. So I'm very interested in knowing how you and others are able to reach children who probably don't have access to ICTs or mobiles through other means, and then how they can use a mobile or other type of ICT to get information or support.

Can you or others talk a little bit about how non-tech and tech work together to help with child protection in areas in instances where access to technology is limited?

thank you!

Helplines and outreach work

Just thinking of a few initiatives:

  • You might be aware that a major strategy for CHI has been the  changeover to a single "harmonised" phone number for child helplines in bordering countries and along trafficking/migrating routes...? So for example India and Bangladesh have agreed to use the phone number 1098, European countries (sorry -don't know how many but more than 10 I think) use the number 116111... I think some South American countries have also changed over to the same number. This way children only need to remember one number as they travel across borders...I'm not up to date on the current rate of harmonisation across continents, but it would def be worth you talking to Leen Decadt at CHI to get the latest.
  • Thailand Childline Foundation in a joint venture with Puenkaew Child Friendly Association and Plan Thailand used the Caravan Project to create mobile counselling units to deliver art and play therapy to tsunami affected children and have more recently bought a bus to deliver mobile counselling during their frequent floods when all telecommunication systems go down
  • Childline India are incredibly progressive at accessing street children- a fabulous publication they put out during their 10 year anniversary discusses examples of their outreach work, including enculturating street children to gain a sense of ownership of the helpline by constantly holding street forum meetings to consult with them, leading to street children being major sources of helpline information distribution to other street children who arrive on the scene from somewhere/anywhere.... . In India the street kids really feel like the helpline is extraordinary experience for me during one visit to Mumbai was partying with hundreds of streetkids at "their" birthday thrown by Childline India. So many of them were thrown away at birth that they don't know their own birthdays, so they all share the CHildline's birthday each year. That year they all turned 13 lol!! :o)
Access in remote areas!

lraftree wrote:

A challenge is that we don't know what access to ICTs/mobiles these different groups actually have - and I know it will differ from place to place. So I'm very interested in knowing how you and others are able to reach children who probably don't have access to ICTs or mobiles through other means, and then how they can use a mobile or other type of ICT to get information or support.

Can you or others talk a little bit about how non-tech and tech work together to help with child protection in areas in instances where access to technology is limited?

Hi Linda,

Good point, access to ICT remains a problem in remote areas, leave alone access to the tools and services for girls and women. In my post of yesterday I mentioned the establishment of Resource Centers. Although a large group of young people will be able to access the centers (even if they have to walk for 3 hours), we still can't reach everyone. That's why we started outreach models from the centres, taking the equipment in a box on a bike to school far far away. Another example is in Burundi where we put the centre in a land rover and drive into the mountains to the different village. The car stays for some time before proceeding to another village. In Sudan, Kosti we use donkeys (yes indeed, the sweet animal). The project is called DonkIT and actually is an Resource Centre on a car pulled by a donkey to go to different places in the dessert. 

Girls access to ICTs we try to tackle to go to the girls, the villages the school (if they are in school!) and make sure that they can access the tools at times they are available. We hope to start a new project that focusses on girls access to ICTs soon!


i'm javin ochieng living in mathare slums kenya and i needed to ask you are the same people running this Child Line iniatitive in india because it's a good idea.

Child protection programs in Kenya?

Hi Javin! Welcome to the dialogue. Philippa, one of the featured resource practitioners for this dialogue, mentioned the Child Line initiative in India in one of her comments above. It certainly sounds like a great initiative and there is a lot we can learn from their work, as well as from the work of Child Helpline.

Javin, are you familiar with any child protection programs in your community? How do these programs work? Are they successful in protecting children?

Childline Kenya

Hi Javin,

I do not know much about the model used in the Kenyan Child Helpline, but here is their website link if you would like to contact them

using frontline sms to help youths get IDS in mathare slums

I'm javin ochieng living in mathare this year i started a programme here in mathare reflecting on some fact relating the 2007 post election violence.

One of the factor was ID's

Election monitoring

After further consultation with youths here in mathare we come to realize the major factor of 2007post election violence was lack to sensitive documents like ID's so that youth's can be allowed to vote in any general elections here in kenya with help from USAID we staretd an iniatitive called my ID my life but during the process they were so many logistical problems since their is no radio station here in mathare that can be used to air youth issues to the general public.but with help from open source platform like frontline sms we have able to mobilize 3,000 youths here in mathare and up today we have been able assist 500 youths get ID's here in mathare its only until recently when the goverment started putting measures that if you want an ID you must have a certificate of good conduct but we are still under consulation so that they withdraw their stands.

This year we are planning to do election monitoring here in mathare since children are most affected people when it comes to violence we have already set up an ushaidi platform and frontline sms so that people can report issues which will be happeng in their areas and we will be working closely with goverment institution so that case of incidence can be reported immediately.


Hi Javin,

Good you are involved in this dialogue. Are you familiar with the organisation: Map Kibera? I know you are from Mathare, but if you have heart or been involved in the map Kibera project I believe you can give us great insights in how this project supports protecting children and young people. 




Mapping open defecation in mathare

Hello to i'm javin ochieng living in mathare slums kenya i'm among the first people who did the proper digital mapping of mathare slums using open street platform the training was offered by map kibera trust and funding from plan international kenya.

In the past they were so many open defecation areas here in mathare slums and childrens were lacking places to play that's its when an organisation called community services approched us so that if we could help them map out all open defecation areas in mathare. the training was offered by jamie lundine and primoz kovacic and community cleaning services helped in developing a quesioner. it took us three months to collect data of all open defecation areas here in mathare. later the data was edited and lated downloaded to open street map platform

After data collection map kibera trust orgainsed a community forum to present their finding to the community. some of the community members took the iniatitive of cleaning up all open defecation areas in mathare by converting them into greens areas and other converting them into play ground so that children can have space of playing.After the mapping the goverment have now started building toilets in some of the areas which used open defecation

Today we have set up a common number using frontline SMS to the community incase they spot out a open defecation they sms and then we map it out .the information will then be distributed to various community based orgainsation so they can cleared it out.




Identity project

Hi Javin,

I am also interested in hearing more about how some of the ICT-enabled projects that you're doing in Mathare might be supporting child or youth protection. I know you were working on something with identity cards, mapping and more. Would love to hear more!


Child Helplines in a delopment context

To give a contritubution to your query, the child helpline is operated   as a number which is toll free , in Kenya for instance , we have 116 where children  if abused call and are rescued , in many cases the rescue is  immediate

Child helplines, continued

Thanks Philippa for a really great intro on child helplines, being a very concrete, powerful and today well spread "technology tool to protect children". You give a very full description but I thought I'd try to fill in some by some quoting & adding (links below only to english translated material).

Philippa Hawke wrote:

Child helplines aim to operate as free services to children, available 24/7 where possible...

The contact is on the child's initiative and almost all child heplines work with anonymity for the child - this trying to give the lowest treshold possible for children to contact. Given all the obstacles that can prevent a child from telling its story and seeking help - such as fear, shame, guilt, loyalty or lack of knowledge of rights and help - this design is needed for child helplines to work as part of or that pathway to child protection.

Philippa Hawke wrote:

What makes the child helplines' story unique is that the issues are described from the perspective of the child rather than the assessment of the professional adult

This speaks about the core of what child helplines can mean, both more than and of course from, being a help/ support/ counselling/ referral/ reporting etc service for children and, in many child helplines, concerned adults. The information child helplines get from children is unique because it's not from answers on a researcher's or therapist's stearing questions, but from the child's own story, on his/her initiative and from his/her own needs. Properly collated and communicated this information can brilliantly inform adjustments and development of child protection systems. This is truly a way for committing to Article 12 in the CRC about children's right to be heard.

Philippa Hawke wrote:

In Australia, Kids Helpline...

In Sweden, BRIS (Children's Rights in Society)  - - an independent NGO founded in 1971, runs the children's helpline, also with telephone, mail and chat for contacts and other webbased services, to offer support to children. Our Discussionforum - a safe, peer-to-peer-support service is one worth mentioning among our webbased ones. In the annual BRIS-report children's voices and issues from all our contacts are collated and communicated and in our report The children, BRIS and IT, our webbased services are further described along with some significant IT-related issues from the children's contacts.

BRIS also runs a telephone helpline and a website  - (; some parts translated to english +) - for adults' concerns about children.

Our other main task, except offering these support services, is advocacy for children's rights - using this uniqe information from children to best influence laws, policies and practices for children's best. A main tool is the above mentioned BRIS-report, but our advocacy includes working through, media, campaigns, comments on parlamentary commitments, research cooperation and knowledge dissemination through reports and trainings for professionals through the BRIS-Academy.

I can go on describing of course ;-) but please instead comment with questions if so...

One of my own focuses is evaluation, child impact assessment, and how we design our programs, services and development after such. Especially interesting is how we can grasp the children's own perceived benefits of services and systems - something undoubtly interesting even outside the child helpline world. I'll write something on that tomorrow, maybe under our second thread.

Peter Irgens, BRIS, Sweden

Video and SMS

Hi All,

I'm working with Plan International and we have a few examples of using new ICTs in the area of child protection. We've collaborated quite a bit with the Child Help Lines (see Phlippa's post above), actually, so great to hear more about those.

Some other initiative that use ICTs for child protection include:

Preventing Violence against Children (VAC) - In this project we worked with youth who used all kinds of media, including participatory video and comics, to make the contents of the UN Study on Violence easier to share and discuss. As a pilot within this project, we developed a way that chidlren, youth, or others could report incidents of violence that they experienced or witnessed using SMS. The idea was to connect these incoming SMS to local social protection services who could respond, and also to use the incoming reports as an advocacy tool for encouraging the central government to allocate more resources to prevention and response to VAC. My colleagues in Benin will have additional information about where we are with the VAC project, and I'll encourage them to join in the dialogue to share... For the SMS reporting piece of the project we used two tools - FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi. One important part of the process was working directly with children, youth, community protection groups and local government protection services to get their input on how information and communication could be enhanced through these tools, and also asking them if/how and where the system we were thinking about trying might create additional risk to those who report so that we could mitigate those risks. We learned quite a lot in the process of implementing this project.

Universal Birth Registraion - Another initiative that we've been involved in is digitization of the birth registration process. Many children are not able to access fundamental rights because they do not have a birth certificate. No birth certificate also leaves children more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation at different levels and in different ways. We worked in Kenya with local government to digitize the system, making it easier for parents to register their children by bringing the registration process closer to them and helping avoid costs and time spent traveling in to obtain the birth certificate. Again, we have learned quite a lot in this process, and I hope some of my colleagues who were directy involved might share their experiences. 

I'll just post those two examples for now. Really looking forward to seeing what others are working on!


Birth Registration Application in Uganda

kantin wrote:

 It would be very helpful to learn more about successful implementations of this approach. Where has it been implemented successfully? What has been attributed to its success? What has been the impact? I hope we hear from others out there about their experiences using technology to increase birth registration!

Hi Linda and Kristin, when I was last in Burundi we talked a lot about birth registration. War Child Holland organized an advocacy campaign about the importance of birth registration. I got in contact with UNICEF Uganda and they shared with us their application developed for birth registration in Uganda. I do not know the ins and outs and impact, but I am sure Carry (UNICEFUganda) can give us some details. This is the link to the application info! Hope to hear more from Carry. 

Using technology to increase birth registration

Hi everyone!

UNICEF has also been engaged in promoting birth registration through the use of ICT and mobiles specifically. I believe Uganda is our model country and I'll let our country colleagues to share more details about their work. In West and Central Africa region Nigeria is using RapidSMS as a tracking tool to monitor the performance of civil registrars, which has proven to be a very succesful management tool. More info can be found here Another initiative that I find promising is the CMI-Plan-Nokia project in Liberia that aims at modernizing the paper-based birth registration system with the help of mobile phones. Should anyone have any updates on this project, please do share!

One more link to the Nigeria

One more link to the Nigeria example for those who are interested:  

7 questions to ask before adding ICTs

Thanks Philippa! Another post you might find helpful is one that I wrote back when we were trying to figure out if we could integrate new technologies into violence reporting. It covers some of the aspects that we needed to think about if we wanted to incorporate ICTs.

7 (or more) questions to ask before adding ICTs,



Using video to raise awareness

Thanks for sharing this, Ernst. This example reminds me of a few campaigns that WITNESS has worked on to protect children. A past campaign they worked on in partnership with AJEDI-Ka/PES (Child Soldier Project) in the Democratic Republic of Congo was called "A Duty to Protect: Child Soldiers in the DRC". WITNESS's current campaign is focused on protecting sexually-exploited children from criminalization in the United States.  They are partnering with ECPAT-USA (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking - USA). The film, "What I Have Been Through Is Not Who I Am," brings the voices of exploited and forgotten children, adult survivors, law enforcement officers and prosecutors from across the country to the attention of our state and federal legislators.

The strategic use of video and photography to raise awareness of an issue is an important example of the use of technology to protect children. It is especially effective when the use of this technology can also empower children at the same time - teaching them how to use these tools and giving them a voice.

using video to raise awareness

Dear Kantin

Use of video is a good idea  to raise awarenes  on issues affecting children , however, the challenges comes in     access to the video cameras ,  this can be and is a challenge especially in the developing countries, that's my take

Photography for child rights -Sierra Leone

Hello Ernst

I'm interested in your post, is it possible  to share a link on the same?


Thank you



sharing link on photography for child rights

Leonida wrote:

I'm interested in your post, is it possible  to share a link on the same?

Hi Leonida,

Thanks for following the dialogue and your interest in our photography for child rights approach. I will share the link as soon as I receive it. 


Resource Centers / One Stop Youth Centers

Although the establishment of Resource Centers (ICT Centers) or "One Stop Youth Centers" are not always specifically aimed at Child Protection, they however provide services that protect and (or) keep children safe.

In collaboration with partners like UNICEF, we establish resource centers in remote areas in Uganda, in Burundi, South Sudan and North Sudan. Children and young people visit the centers, to have access to computers and information. It is a space for learning skills, have peer interaction (off & online) and search for information. Basic computing skills lead to confidence that enable them to interact, exchange, search and demand for action and information. 

The centers are functioning as 'hubs' for young people to get together, to discus and initiate solutions to problems they face. Often without any or very little involvement of (I)NGOs. After training in using the technologies they are used for a wide variety of purposes that include: making posters or radio programmes on issues affecting youth, watching football (also important!), playing games, writing letters to local governments, writing basic proposals to raise money or other resources for their communities etc. 

Youth involved in these centers often tell me that what they like most is the fact that adults (teachers, doctors, local leaders, government people, employers) value them more. Instead of being called lazy or useless they are now being asked to train adults, to work with teachers or be offered employment in companies or government institutes. 

What does this have to do with child and young people protection? Well, through youth engagement and such initiatives, I believe adults will realize that they should support this generation rather than abuse and (or) exploit them. The self-esteem that youth gain through initiatives like this enable them to protect themselves and their peers. To stand up, speak up and say: "no". Its not the tools, its the empowerment the tools can realize in young people!

What do you all think?

Resource Centres/One Stop Youth Centres

My take on this is that in many parts of developing countries young people are never invovled in policy disc ussions , in many cases they are often  ignored,I agree that when young people come together in these centres  as  opposed to idling in the estates in what is normally called " jobless corners" they get an opportunity to  learn what is being done elsewhere especially if there is internet connection and also link up with other youth to share ideas , the meetings points in youth  centres can also enable someone realize their potential.

My view on  youth centres and  child protection is that it gives young people  opportunities to   have access to infomation and its only when one has information that they are able to  advocate for their rights  and also become informed on what constitutes abuse.For instance  an idling youth following  politicians for handouts may not see that as a form of abuse ,but when they are empowered instead of following politicians for handouts, they may wish to engage in some activities that may given them  income , what mostly I see in Nairobi is youth have formed groups  to carry out garbage collection in their vicinity   at a fee, thus they keep the environment health and at the same time  earn an income.




Technology to rapidly document and reunify separated children

Hello everyone, I would like to introduce you to a new technology called "RapidFTR" to help protect children that UNICEF is developing with the support of the Humanitarian Innovation Fund and other partners.

“RapidFTR” (Rapid Family Tracing and Reunification) addresses the problem of reuniting unaccompanied and separated children with parents or caregivers as quickly as possible in emergencies, by making it faster and more efficient to document these children and to share their information. 

Every emergency, whether a rapid onset natural disaster or armed conflict, inevitably leads to the separation of children from their families and caregivers in the commotion of survival and flight. The longer a child is separated from his or her family, the more difficult it is to locate them and the more at risk a child is to violence, economic and sexual exploitation, and potential trafficking. 

While speed is of the essence in reuniting children with their parents and caregivers, current practices to document separated children are inefficient. Child Protection Officers and case workers rely on long-hand collection of a child’s essential information and the use of carbon paper to make copies. Information is then manually entered into a database to generate a record for each child that can be used to match records of parents searching for their children, printed for missing child poster boards and used by case workers to manage a child’s overall care pending his or her family reunification. This process can lead to delays in recording, transporting and consolidating information into a user-friendly electronic format. As a result, precious hours and days are lost in efforts to reunite children with their families during which time they become increasingly vulnerable to the many risks of child exploitation.

RapidFTR is specifically designed to streamline and speed up Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR) efforts both in the immediate aftermath of a crisis and during ongoing recovery efforts. The goal is not to rethink the steps aid workers take in order to reunite families; instead, the focus is on streamlining and speeding up a process that is already in place.

RapidFTR is designed to be used on mobile devices; functionality is specifically being developed for Blackberry, Android and Netbooks. A prototype of the Blackberry platform is undergoing field testing in Uganda. Android has been selected as the next development platform because increasing availability of inexpensive Android devices around the world suggests it will quickly become a preferred and widely available tool.

RapidFTR uses existing registration forms agreed upon in the inter-agency global child protection working group in emergencies to document information about children, including their photographs, voice recording and pronunciation of name etc. At present, RapidFTR is not designed for case management or data processing. Analysis of information is best done using tools that are already in place and designed for this work, such as the inter-agency Child Protection Information Management System (CPIMS).

A major design goal of RapidFTR is that it is endlessly flexible, and information can be readily exportable into other systems. It is not intended to replace or override other platforms but simply to enhance them. The technology’s versatility and open-source nature will allow for each organization to use it on a device of their choosing as well as share data safely between organizations when necessary. Since emergencies strike without regard to place or people, RapidFTR will also be adjustable to different languages and local needs. RapidFTR is being built using an “Agile” methodology of software development, which means that each aspect of the software is created and tested independently, so that changes to project requirements can be easily incorporated, even while it is still being built.

Great effort is being placed into making RapidFTR useful on rugged devices and in absence of network connectivity. Its use does not, however, preclude data collection by traditional means. If hardware is unavailable in the field, children can still be registered using paper copies of the forms, and that information entered manually through the web, a netbook, or a mobile device when time allows.

As the agency charged with leading child protection in global emergencies, UNICEF’s vision is to make RapidFTR, once developed, a standard tool freely available and used by all child protection and humanitarian organizations to document unaccompanied and separated children in an emergency, in the hope of advancing and facilitating the collective process of child reunification. To this end, UNICEF is working closely with key partners in the design and field testing of RapidFTR through an inter-agency forum. RapidFTR is the continuation of a student group project for a graduate level ‘Design for UNICEF’ course at New York University in 2009/10, and is being developed in collaboration with the global IT software consulting firm, ThoughtWorks.

RapidFTR is still in the development and field testing phase, and will be ready for deployment towards mid 2013.

Here is a weblink:

Technology to rapidly document and reunify separated children

I noted the earlier discussion on the risks for children of certain technological innovations. Security is a top priority for RapidFTR.  The system facilitates documentation of children separated from their parents or primary caregivers in an emergency - situations where data security is of paramount importance given the potential risks of abuse to such vulnerable children.  RapidFTR ascribes to the inter-agency guidelines and protocols for data security and data sharing that have been established by the Inter-Agency Working Group on Unaccompanied and Separated Children under the global Child Protection Working Group.       

In order to minimize this risk, RapidFTR uses secure connection protocols, data encryption, and limits access to trained, registered users. In addition, data from local emergencies is never pooled with data from other places in the world, to limit the damage that any potential breach would cause. Every child is assigned a unique ID, a practice that allows aid workers to refer to the child without disclosing personal information, so that aid workers can question people who claim to the child’s legitimate guardian. The child record ID incorporates the unique user ID of the aid worker who created it so that this primary contact can always be easily traced.

Just wanted to share how security-related aspects are being factored into the design process to minimise risks to vulnerable children. 


Thanks for the details on RapidFTR - this is very interesting Pernille!

Thank you for participating in this dialogue!

This has been such an interesting conversation on using technology to protect children.  I can't thank you enough for creating such a great resource!  I especially want to thank Linda Raftree for helping to facilitate this dialogue and engaging her network of practitioners to participate.

I hope you found it helpful to reflect on your own experiences, exchange stories and examples of the strategic use of technology to protection children, and to share your challenges/risks and opportunities.  I hope you all are taking away new ideas, new resources, new reflections and new allies!

We will begin the process of writing a summary of the comments posted here.  It will most likely take a few weeks and once we're finished, we'll post the summary on the front page of this dialogue.  For those of you that added comments, I'll notify you by email when the summary is posted.

The featured resource practitioners committed to participate in this dialogue for 7 days.  Although that commitment has come to end, you can still add comments until the summary is posted.  So please feel free to continue to add your thoughts, reflections, resources and stories!

And finally, we'd appreciate your suggestions for 2013 New Tactics conversation topics, especially those that relate to creative cultural resistance!  Are there any topics that we could cover in 2013 that would help to bring this conversation forward?  Share your ideas by adding your comment to this blog post or contacting us via email.

Thank you!

Thank you, Kristin!

Many many thanks to you Kristin for the fantastic facilitation and all the work to make the dialogue happen. We all really reall appreciate it. Thanks also to everyone who participate. I certainly learned a lot and will be returning to the different discussions to continue learning and following links!

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