Child Protection Policy put into Action: Translating policy into practice within Non-Formal Education (NFE)
Feb 2019 - end date TBC

Note on terminology: the terms ‘safeguarding’ and ‘Child Protection’ are used throughout this document with preference for the latter when specifically referring to implementing policy in Lebanon (where this is the preferred term), otherwise ‘safeguarding’ should be understood to mean ‘safeguarding for children’

Carrying out comprehensive Child Protection procedures can prove challenging at the best of times, and when formal structures are strained, or absent altogether, such as during crisis situations, focus on this important area can be lost amid the need to address more reactionary necessities.

Through Al Madad Foundation’s work in non-formal education, we have seen first-hand both the need for stringent systems to be imposed as well as the various factors that inhibit their enforcement. While most NFE centres are required to hold a Child Protection policy (often by virtue of their association with a donor organisation), these are rarely translated into applied procedures, regular checks or thorough follow-up. This lack of practical action puts children and teachers at risk within environments where they should feel safe, and leaves supporting organisations open to liability and dysfunction.

Despite thorough research and consultation with a large number of NGOs working in the field, we have been unable to discover a practical example of guidance or procedures used by any of the organisations to translate their child protection policies into on-the-ground action. In addition to the obvious dangers this poses for the children they serve, it also opens organisations, regardless of their unwritten “cultural” procedures, up to increased scrutiny by bodies such as the UK Charity Commission.

We believe that in charities’ rush to tackle this issue from the top down, they have created a vacuum of bottom-up practical guidance which has resulted in a case of “Policy vs. Practice”, with the former taking precedence over the latter almost to the point of exclusion. While good practice certainly exists, this is more often than not a result of informal procedures developed and followed by staff on the ground outside of any official framework. This can be attributed to their more detailed knowledge a project’s implementation and their deeper understanding of factors such as local cultural norms, security restrictions or resource deployment, which are rarely as minutely understood by those setting overall organisational policy.