The issue: Violence against children and young people in schools and at home
Many children in Colombia are living in very vulnerable situations, without any form of support or knowledge about services that are available to them. These children face multiple issues including physical and sexual abuse, exploitative work, neglect, and family conflict. 89,807 cases of domestic violence were reported in Colombia in 2011 alone, and the real numbers are likely to be much higher. Families, particularly mothers and fathers, are the most frequent perpetrators of this violence against children.
Children who experience this violence have limited knowledge of, let alone access to, the services that should be protecting them, and those living in the most disadvantaged communities are particularly vulnerable and find it hardest to access support. Many schools do not have the structures in place to take action in cases where abuse (or risk of abuse) is identified, and even in cases when abuse or violence is reported to the authorities, the institutions responsible for protecting children do not work together properly, causing increased likelihood of children 'slipping through the net' between different services.
How Corpolatin is addressing this issue
Children Change Colombia's partner Corpolatin runs a free help-line in Cali, where poverty and violence levels are high. This service is a life-line for many children, especially those who live in remote slum areas far away from services and other sources of help. Mobile phones are widely used in Colombia, even in the poorest communities, and are made available as "public telephones" by street vendors. The helpline can be accessed free of charge by calling '106'. Corpolatin also offers online support at www.teescuchamos.org.
As well as offering immediate crisis support, the line also helps put children and their families in touch with the services they need, such as social services, healthcare and education, and offers follow-up support. When necessary, Corpolatin provides support in filing formal complaints. This element of the programme is particularly important since many of the most vulnerable families do not access the services that are available to them due to lack of information and lack of confidence, which contributes to their sense of isolation and their poverty.
Corpolatin also works with parents, carers and teachers, as well as other child protection institutions, to help to create a safer community for children and young people.
What does the project do?
'106' helpline – Providing immediate and ongoing crisis support to vulnerable children
The helpline receives around 16,500 calls a year. Calls are answered by paid, trained professionals and lines are open at least 8 hours a day, seven days a week. It is the only helpline of its kind in Colombia.
Increase children's ability to protect themselves
Corpolatin provide 'protection and prevention' training to children and young people who are either victims of or at risk of violence or child abuse. They use activities like role play and puppetry to encourage and support children to think about their abilities to deal with conflict and dangerous situations, as well as what constitutes abuse and violence and what situations increase their risk of this. Children learn about the support networks available to them, how to access them, and what they can do to protect themselves from abuse or risk situations.
Increase the capacity of adults to protect children from abuse
Parents, carers and teachers learn about domestic violence, violence at school and child abuse, how to recognise different risk situations and the impacts they can have on a child's development. They learn how to prevent these situations, the actions that can be taken once a child has already been abused and how to prevent this from happening again, as well as increasing their knowledge of the local and institutional support available. Parents are encouraged to think about how they can look out for other children, not just their own, and in this way the project helps to mobilise the broader community towards protecting children.
Improve the child protection network
Corpolatin works with representatives of child protection institutions in Cali (including social services, judiciary, police, the family welfare agency, and other NGOs) to look at the care pathways that are already in place and what can be improved. Corpolatin highlights to these institutions how easily children can slip between the gaps in the services that they offer, and encourages them to think about what they can do to prevent this. The result is a stronger child protection network and improved links between child protection institutions.
Case Study: Sofia's story
Sofia's parents separated after she and her mum had experienced years of physical, verbal and emotional abuse at the hands of her dad. Sofia's mum had fled to Bogota, while Sofia stayed with her aunt in Cali. Sofia heard about Corpolatin in school and called their help line. She said that her aunt was making her work long hours, and that she had threatened to hurt Sofia if she didn't do what she was asked, or if she told anyone about what was happening.
Corpolatin investigated and decided to refer the case to the local social services office, which made a home visit. Sofia was so scared of her aunt that social services issued an urgent action to remove her from the house and take her into a temporary care home. There she was put into contact with her mum, and given support to move to Bogota to live with her.
Corpolatin supported Sofia and her mum throughout the whole process, and has linked them with services to provide ongoing support in Bogota. Sofia called Corpolatin before leaving her care home to say thank you for all their help and tell them how happy she was to be reuniting with her mother.
Thank you for your interest in this project.
To help Corpolatin's work continue, you can donate here.