Crisis response

What is it?     

  • To support and protect children, relevant, timely and individualised child-centred, multi-sectoral crisis response services should be provided to all child victims of sexual exploitation and abuse (and their families).
  • Child protection crisis response and longer-term services include a range of coordinated services that may be provided online and / or offline:
    • safety and security services (e.g. physical removal from a location / abuser or removal of an offender from a particular site);
    • health services (e.g. physical and mental health and psychosocial support services);
    • justice services (e.g. prosecution and law enforcement of offenders); and
    • child and social welfare services (e.g. protection and care, including alternative care).
  • Education and empowerment programmes and services for individuals and groups of children, their parents and caregivers and the wider society are also provided.
  • Referral to other sector services may also be necessary (e.g. nutrition, asylum, disability, social protection).

Why is it important?

  • Every child has a right to protection from exploitation or abuse in the first instance. For those that have been abused, a child protection response is required in the short and longer term, until a long-lasting solution has been reached. Duty-bearers[1] have a responsibility to protect children and to respond to reports or risks of exploitation and abuse accordingly, this includes providing protection crisis response services to children, their families and others as required, when a child is at risk of being or has been harmed or abused.
  • Crisis response is crucial to prevent further harm or harm from happening in the first place. Longer term services are required so that the child can receive the services and support needed to rebuild their lives over time and to survive and thrive.
  • Children’s rights and duty bearer’s responsibilities must be respected online as they are offline.
  • Duty bearers have an ethical responsibility to educate and empower children to understand the online world and to foster safe and empowering online experiences for all children and general users.
  • Effective crisis response, combined with the procedures and actions listed in capabilities 10, 11 and 12, can help give child victims and survivors more confidence, control and power over important choices within their lives.

How can it be implemented?

  • Multi-agency support for children’s protection should align with the child protection system of the country in which the child victim is based. Child protection services should also consider that children are part of an interconnected online and offline “ecological system” and reflect the needs, rights and responsibilities of the individual, family (or care setting), community, and wider society.
  • Ensure that one qualified individual is responsible for managing each case and ensures appropriate follow up, support and referrals throughout the process.
  • Ensure that report responders (cybercrime officers and prosecutors, health professionals, other qualified individuals) are able to assess the priority of a case and follow up as appropriate (see capability 7 and 8).
  • Empowerment and education services should reflect a balanced understanding of the threats, risks and opportunities for children.
  • Age-appropriate, concise and accessible education is required for children, parents and caregivers and general users on: (i) what child exploitation and abuse is, including CSEA online (ii) the associated risks, (iii) how to report it, (iv) what happens when a report is made, and (v) different individual’s roles and responsibilities in keeping children safe from sexual abuse and exploitation and generating a safe and empowering internet for all.
  • Education and empowerment services can include signposting to reporting mechanisms, educational advertisement and further information on every platform, tool and service.
  • Empower children, parents and caregivers and general internet users to prevent abuse and report suspected abuse. Some suggestions to achieve this include informing users about how reports are responded to and by whom, confirmation that reports can be anonymous, how reporting can help keep others from (further) harm, and the risks of not reporting. Also, success stories of responses to other reports can be shared to foster trust in the system.
  • Ensure appropriate acknowledgement of every report, this can help foster trust in the system. Appropriate acknowledgement could include anything from a generic email to personalised response.
  • Where high priority cases and / or cases that require specific support (in-person or virtual) are received, individualised follow up and intersectional analysis[2] of the case by a qualified professional is required to inform the necessary services. Qualified professionals should have access to an up-to-date “referral pathway” so as to enable quick referrals to locally available, appropriate and accessible services.

Further resources:

UNICEF, 2020 Evidence Review

[1] Duty bearers include the State / government as well as non-state responsibility-holders, including civil society, businesses, parents and caregivers. Duty bearers have duties and obligations under the UNCRC; they are legally bound to respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights.

[2] Intersectional analysis will consider culture, race, gender, class, language and other factors as relevant, and assign an appropriate response.