A six years old boy was abused by a tutor who tried to stitch the child’s ear with a stapler; there was a large-scale child abuse outbreak in a children’s home…several serious child abuse cases in child-related institutions have been exposed in Hong Kong recently and sent a shock wave through the society. According to Social Welfare Department, there were 1,439 newly registered child protection cases in 2022 which is the highest on record and represents a 53% increase compared to the statistics in 2020. In 2021, cases related to child-related institutions took up only 5% of all cases. Yet one year later, the percentage rose to 8%, the situation is worrying.
The Possibility for Abused Children to Suffer from Mental Illnesses Increases by Six-Fold
Dr Ip, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, School of Clinical Medicine from the University of Hong Kong cum Child Safeguarding Professional Advisor of Plan International Hong Kong pointed out that the possibility for abused children to suffer from Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or mental illnesses would increase by six-fold. Moreover, child abuse could keep on occurring through generations with long-lasting effects.
Research statistics from clinical observation and long-term case studies indicate that the brain development, behaviour, emotions, and academic performance of children who experienced abuse are affected to different extents. Apart from lowered self-esteem, it is also more difficult for them to establish healthy interpersonal relationships; in some cases, the abused children have shown symptoms of anxiety, depression, and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Dr. Ip shared, “The environment in which a child grows up — the home, school, and community, all play a significant role in their physical and mental development. It is the responsibility of adults to create a safe environment for children to be free from any threats of abuse or negligence and grow up healthily.”
“Child Safeguarding” is More Effective than “Child Protection”
Even one child abuse case is too much. Child protection is only the remedy after child abuse has happened. Plan International firmly believes that safeguarding children and minimising the risks of abuse and exploitation in the first place are the keys to stopping child abuse from happening and creating a safe environment for their growth. In 2018, we conducted comprehensive research on relevant laws and theories in other countries and Hong Kong to create an evidence-based framework for implementing the Child Safeguarding Policy in Hong Kong. The framework aims at providing guidance and procedures, to child-related staff, volunteers, and even the public who will come into contact with children at some point, on the proper boundary when getting along with children and the precautionary measures to protect children, for example, to provide a clear code of conduct describing appropriate and inappropriate behaviours. It also provides guidelines on preventing institutional child abuse, such as forbidding an adult to spend time with children alone and strengthening the trainings and support provided to child-related staff, volunteers, and working partners. We strive to eradicate the risk of child abuse at its source that allows all stakeholders to build a safe environment for children.
Support Plan International Child Safeguarding Programme
|o Encourage Child-related Institutions to Implement Child Safeguarding Policy
• Formulate “Kindergarten Child Safeguarding Practice Manual” with concise and practical guidelines which assist the education sector in its implementation.
• Offer on-site workshops for consultation and addressing practical difficulties; provide immediate responses to queries from colleagues and staff.
|o Advocate Knowledge on Child Safeguarding
• Launch an Online Learning Platform with three levels of certificate programmes, providing trainings and useful resources for all staff and relevant personnel.
• Organise Child Safeguarding related workshops for teaching staff, parents, and children which help children to protect themselves and adults to learn how to get along with children in a proper manner.
|o Conduct Evidence-based Research
• Conduct researches on the Child Safeguarding Policy to further understand the progress of implementing the Child Safeguarding Policy in Hong Kong and the opinions of stakeholders on related matters.
HK$2/ Day Construct Safe Environment for Children for Growth and Protection