- More than 250 resources on the protection of children during the COVID-19 pandemic are available on http://covid.childhub.org/
- More than 27,400 child protection news, learning materials and opportunities on https://childhub.org/
- 10,000 registered members on ChildHub
In these uncertain times, misinformation or even a lack of knowledge can impact our child protection systems. In response, the team behind the online ChildHub platform has taken a leading role in offering substantial resources to professionals.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the daily lives of nearly every person across the globe. Yet, some professions have been disrupted more than others: those working to protect vulnerable groups — social workers, psychologists, etc. — for whom, more than a working environment, in-person meetings are extremely valuable 'tools' in their work.
In Albania, in the middle of March 2020, while everything was closed and the feeling of insecurity over the consequences of isolation increased significantly, the need to meet began to emerge, despite the physical isolation. Many professionals of the field turned to Childhub immediately, looking for opportunities for virtual meetings between colleagues and also to explore the necessary resources or valuable practices that could be adapted to their work. Meanwhile child protection workers in the administrative units continued their work, already modified and mostly focused on the emergency response for groups in need. Psychosocial support and case management could only be done over the phone, which brought with it the need to change working protocols and guidelines. Childhub Albania responded to enquiries about the roles and modalities of work in the new situation, the psychological effects under isolation, the ethical issues of working online by organizing a series of four webinans, while at the same time making online platforms available for case discussions through the guidance and support of colleagues or experts in the field and of course making resources or tools in the Albanian language accsesable to them.
For more than five years now, the Child Protection Hub for South-East Europe, which is the long name for ChildHub, has provided professionals with knowledge, resources, and networking opportunities, in nine languages. It brings together the latest developments in child protection — from research and scientific articles to textbooks and educational materials. It also serves as an educational hub with free online seminars and e-courses. It is a 'meeting place' where professionals from all over Europe connect and discuss their work. At ChildHub, visitors and registered members can learn and explore through videos, podcasts and webinars. They can share their experiences and find answers to difficult questions and cases. "The hub si the perfect tool for the nowadays and future proffessionals. We all live in times of advanced technology and the ease of acsessing resources and people through an online platform, designated to serve to a certain community, is a luxury" sais Sabina Carcani, one of the most active resource people, engaged with Childhub Albania since 2015.
But how did Regional Childhub team manage to react so quickly to compile and gather the COVID 19 information? 'In mid-March, when it became apparent that the COVID-19 pandemic would lead to a lockdown in most of the countries where we operate, the child protection team of Terre des hommes came together with a needs assessment among child protection workers', says Ms. Nemeth-Almasi, head of the project. 'They did an extensive search for documents online and ended up with a bulk of resources which served as a checklist on what to consider, what to watch out for and how best to adjust case management. By April, Tdh had in place an extensive collection of materials, and that is when the ChildHub team came on board to develop a special thematic "space" on COVID-19. Supervised by the Head of Child Protection at Tdh, Sendrine Constant, the ChildHub team organised resources based on set topics for the minimum standards in child protection'.
The available resources on COVID-19 follow a structure that makes it easy for users to identify what they are looking for. They are divided into nine categories — folders that include general information and guidelines on the virus, case management issues, psychological and psychological care in the midst of a pandemic, community-level approaches, child-friendly materials and safety advice, including for digital spaces. There are even tools related to communication and advocacy.
Nevertheless, it isn’t just professionals who can benefit from ChildHub at this difficult time. Parents can retrieve interesting resources, advice, or games and ideas for indoor activities. Furthermore, there are documents that help teachers and schools, such as a UNICEF guide to help protect children from the transmission of the virus at schools, with relevant tips and guidelines. 'Education', explains Ms. Nemeth-Almasi, 'can play a critical role in prevention and treatment as it encourages children to take action at home, at school and in their community, and to become the best advocates for their protection.'
The COVID-19 pandemic caught our countries unprepared. There was no plan, no instructions, no advice, no protocols in place, and everything had to be devised from scratch. As social distancing and other measures are beginning to relax in many countries, reports of a potential second wave of coronavirus in the coming months keeps the ChildHub team alert: 'We want to believe that the crisis has passed and that we will return to normal', says Nemeth-Almasi. 'However, the pandemic has taught humanity an important lesson in humility: we know nothing, we learn from zero, and as long as the disease is not eliminated, here at ChildHub we will continue to enhance our COVID-19 theme with the knowledge gained worldwide. Our ambition is to add our bit in this global effort to build a legacy of knowledge, an arsenal of supplies for those who help protect people and children. After all, as experience has shown, the need for protection against child abuse and neglect is unaware of crisis situations. In fact, that’s when it becomes more urgent.'
Implementing partners of the Child Protection Hub are: Terre des hommes in Hungary, Albania, Kosovo, Moldova, Romania, Save the Children North West Balkans, Know-how Centre for Alternative Care for Children in Bulgaria, Brave Phone in Croatia, Centre for Youth Integration in Serbia.
ChildHub is funded by the Austrian Development Agency, Oak Foundation and Terre des hommes.