Module 1: Changing Approaches Towards Protecting Children

Learning Objectives

  1. To describe the shift from a welfare to a rights based approach to freedom of children from violence
  2. To recognize the prevalence and severity of violence against children and barriers in addressing it
  3. To understand the evolution of professional developments in addressing violence against children
  4. To recognize the importance of a holistic approach to addressing violence against children


Child health professionals have substantial responsibilities and opportunities to protect children from maltreatment and to promote conditions reducing both the likelihood of maltreatment and its negative effects. This module will explore the need to move beyond the traditional medical model of child protection to a child rights and equity-based approach. This will require child health professionals to expand their definition of child maltreatment and violence to include types and venues of violence they have not routinely addressed in the past. It will necessitate expanding from clinicians’ primary roles of ensuring "safety," to a far more holistic approach that moves the child beyond "safety" to "well-being." This will involve a transformation of our understanding of the child as an "object of protection" to being a "subject of rights." The module will examine the implications of the CRC for understanding and responding to violence against children. It will also explore some of the barriers that need to be addressed in order to bring an end to violence against children.

Five principles will guide the learner through all the modules in this Unit.

  1. No violence against children is justifiable. The CRC emphasizes that children are entitled to protection from “all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation including sexual abuse.” In common parlance, the term violence is often understood to mean only physical harm and/or intentional harm. However the Committee on the Rights of the Child emphasizes most strongly that the choice of the term violence needs to address non-physical and/or non-intentional forms of harm (such as neglect and psychological maltreatment). It leaves no room for any level or form of legalized and/or culturally sanctioned violence against children.
  2. A child rights-based approach requires a paradigm shift towards respecting and promoting the dignity and integrity of children as rights-holders, not victims. Children are subjects of rights, not objects of protection.
  3. Children’s rights to be heard and to have their views given due weight must be respected in all decision-making processes, and are central to protection strategies and programs.
  4. Gender equity and all forms of maltreatment of girls demand special attention.
  5. A holistic rights-based approach to preventing violence against children will require the use of the CRC and principles of child rights at all three levels of child advocacy--in clinical care, systems development and the generation of regional, national and global public policy.