We believe children know what’s best for them. And we put that into practice. We’ve recognised this from the very beginning and so have always tried to listen to them. Read below to find out the three key ways we listen to children and how this has shaped our work.
Children understand their own childhoods and the circumstances in which they live. Listening to children is important because if society were genuinely accountable to children, it would not be actively depriving them of their freedom by locking them up in orphanages.
Over the years, we’ve deliberately listened to children, and they’ve been consistent in what they’ve told us: they don’t want to be confined in orphanages, they want to live in a loving, safe family or caring community setting.
This has shaped our mission and also shaped our approach to fulfilling it.
Accountability: Creating mechanisms so that children’s voices are heard
As we implement our new strategy, we will ensure that the voices of children are heard, and that when we agree to act on something they tell us, they can hold us accountable for it. One of the ways we’re working to achieve this is through ‘Our Voices Matter’.
This initiative will commit us to regularly meeting with children, listening to them, making decisions with them and reporting back to them on progress.
Participation: Asking children about decisions that affect them
At the very beginning of our story, listening to children shifted our founders’ focus from improving orphanages to closing them and instead finding children loving families. This fundamental shift has impacted the way we’ve worked with children ever since.
Our social workers always ask children for their opinion to make sure we find the best and most effective care solution for them. And we train others to do the same—from our local partner organisations to government social workers and child protection professionals. It may seem obvious to do this but all too often children are not consulted and adults make decisions for them, not with them.
Safeguarding: Empowering children to be agents of their own protection
Listening to children and amplifying their voice also improves safeguarding. Children know what makes them feel safe and what frightens them but very often a culture of silence and an imbalance of power prevents them speaking out and enables abuse to continue unchallenged. So as a fundamental part of our approach to safeguarding we will continue to empower and equip children with the knowledge, skills and understanding to be agents of their own protection.
For example, our social workers support children by teaching them essential life skills. They build their sense of self-worth and identity, teach them about their rights to be safe and feel loved, and help them learn how to say no and how to ask for what they need. They also give them the practical tools to know how to make a complaint or ask for help, so that if they’re feeling unsafe or uncomfortable, they have a number to call and someone to talk to who they know they can trust. We also canvass their opinions and experiences through informal group sessions, questionnaires and by consulting them on general safeguarding issues as well as decisions that directly affect them.
The way in which aid is administered can often ignore children’s voices without any accountability to them. This is because of the power imbalance that exists in favour of those who determine what aid should be used for, who should benefit from it, and how. This results in aid being done to people, instead of for and with people. Our approach is to work with all our partners (including funders, local authorities and other NGOs) to address those power imbalances. We want to make sure that children, those who care for them and those who represent their interests are empowered to voice what children want more effectively.
Any questions or concerns?
If you have any questions or concerns about safeguarding at Hope and Homes for Children then please get in touch. You can contact us via our dedicated and confidential email firstname.lastname@example.org