Giving a voice to children and young people
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Child Helplines

"Child helplines are core components of robust child protection systems."


 

What is a child helpline?

Child helplines are help and support services for children, run by civil society organisations and also in some cases government bodies.

Child helplines base their work on the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The UNCRC spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. The UNCRC also specifically gives children the right to be heard and to express their views without fear of harm or reprisal.

Child helplines help ensure all children have the opportunity to be heard. Child helplines also adhere to the four core principles of the UNCRC: non-discrimination; the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child.

 

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How can children contact a child helpline?

In order to be optimally accessible to all children, child helplines use a variety of communication methods and technologies, depending on the needs of the children they serve. Some of the communication methods adopted by child helplines are:

  • telephone services;
  • mobile phone SMS/text messaging;
  • online services such as email, chat rooms and online bulletin boards;
  • letter 'drop boxes' in schools, community centres and other public spaces;
  • postal services;
  • radio programmes;
  • mobile outreach units.

To make access easier and simple for children, child helplines endeavour to obtain three- or four- digit, short, easy to remember, toll-free phone numbers. These ensure that all children can pick up a phone and call a child helpline at any time, without worrying about costs.

Similarly, child helplines strive to constantly keep up with the changing needs and preferred communication methods of children. In some cases this means incorporating new online technologies to reach children well-versed in and accustomed to online communication, and in other cases this involves implementing creative outreach programmes to reach marginalised children, be it in remote communities or those children living outside of existing formal systems.

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What do child helplines offer?

Child helpline counsellors actively listen to children who wish to express their concerns, and link children and young people to resources and emergency assistance as needed. Where necessary, child helplines also directly intervene, providing shelter, education and legal support. Importantly, child helplines also reach out to those children who may not be able to access their services on their own. Finally, child helplines also raise awareness of their services and of the issues faced by children.

 

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