By Jane Larsson, CIS Executive Director and Chair, International Taskforce on Child Protection
I write this post in my role as Chair of the International Taskforce on Child Protection. Members of the taskforce are incredibly dedicated volunteers who have maintained focus on our fundamental responsibility to keep children as safe as possible in education. Due to our collective commitment to this purpose, even as we each adjust to the new realities of our daily lives, this work continues virtually as and when possible.
Students across the world now find themselves in new learning environments, many of them online where the inherent risks are now escalating. Parents need our support more than ever. We hope you will find this report and the highlighted resources useful as you strive to support your communities.
I hope that you, your families and colleagues are healthy and as well as possible given your individual circumstances amidst this incredible global situation. My wish for you is that you are managing to settle into some sort of routine to find balance in your life and to help you stay connected with those who are important to you.
Stay healthy, stay connected, and do share our resources.
International Taskforce on Child Protection: Prioritizing our Objectives | April 2020 Report
As in all aspects of life right now, education has changed. “Focus on Maslow before Bloom”, urges Dr Deborah Netolicky with great clarity in her new blog on Distance Learning 2.0. So too will our work as a Taskforce change.
Across our international education community, many of us are now making decisions in 90-day planning cycles given the lack of certainty on what will happen next. Budgets are stretched, funds are no longer coming in at many organizations, families are questioning the value of distance education as they are asked to do more, and day to day work can be intense as governments impose varying regulations with little if any notice. I imagine that every single one of us has changed or will change the way we work with the goal of preserving the future of our institution or organization.
Our top priority as a Taskforce must be to do anything we can to ensure good health, our own, that of our families, and the communities we serve—schools, universities and organizations, as we collectively consider our ongoing objectives to safeguard students across the world.
What are our safeguarding priorities right now? How can you help?
Our work has never been more important during a time when education has moved online and families are restricted in movement and access to services. The New York Times published an opinion piece by a child abuse paediatrician, citing “This crisis has created conditions for a rise in violence that young victims will find difficult to escape.” The BBC reports that calls to the domestic abuse hotline have increased by 25%. "Europol, the UK's National Crime Agency, the Swedish Police Authority and others have already seen an increase in online child sexual exploitation since COVID-19 lockdowns," warns National Public Radio in the US, noting that child abuse live-streaming is rising as countries close schools and impose lockdowns.
Today, we call your attention to newly published resources, the first two made available through the collaboration of multiple Taskforce volunteers.
- ICMEC has posted new COVID-19 resources in the Education Portal and continues to accumulate new information.
- Adapting to New Learning Environments—an essential briefing on how to keep students safe and protect their well-being as they access education remotely—has been developed by CIS in consultation with the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC), Childnet International, the International School Counseling Association (ISCA), International Child Protection Advisors (ICPA) and 9ine.
- New gov.uk guidance: Safeguarding and Remote Education during Coronavirus (COVID-19)
We hope these resources are useful to you and your communities. Please share them broadly as we consider the tremendous stress caused by the pandemic to families who, together or alone, are juggling and struggling through work and home schooling amidst their worries about health and job security.
In this time, parents need our support more than ever. We have a responsibility to educate children and to provide their parents with resources and guidance. Essential tools to support parents during this challenging time can be found at the ICMEC Education Portal, including the international protocol for Managing Allegations of Child Abuse against Educators and other Adults, a guide for school leaders.
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