Protecting vulnerable children

April 28, 2024

Established under the Child Protection Act 2018, the CPI is a fully functional facility that offers support, accommodation and counselling to survivors of child abuse

Protecting vulnerable children


he most recent addition to the Child Protection Institute in Islamabad was a 12-year-old boy who saw a murder. The child, who saw his parents kill a person during a heated domestic conflict and is the main witness in the homicide case, was brought over to the institute by policemen.

A 15-year-old girl who sought refuge at the CPI said that she had endured two years of sexual abuse and physical battery. The perpetrator, she said, was her father. She said her mother enabled him by staying quiet. When nothing else worked, she tried the CPI.

The case of a domestic worker who hailed from a newly merged tribal district is still fresh in the memories of CPI staff. She had escaped an abusive household but was vulnerable. A number of people she contacted (for help) had abused her before. Finally, a kind-hearted lady took her to the CPI.

Another boy was picked up from the street at the tender age of 14 and sexually abused. He struggled with drug addiction for three years and didn’t want to go home.

Two girls were rescued from the F-9 park, one a two years old and the other five months old. Their drug addict mother had abandoned them in the park and was nowhere to be found. The girls were reported to the CPI by the park’s regular visitors.

These cases show the range and gravity of child abuse and neglect incidents happening in and around some of the most developed cities in Pakistan.

“Some of the cases we receive are of immense complexity. All require professional attention. For example, we get many children who are struggling with drug addiction. A specialised facility with experienced medical officials on call is needed to treat such cases. As the CPI lacks this kind of human and financial resource, we usually refer such cases on but, unfortunately, no such specialised rehabilitation centre is available for children,” CPI director general Rabeea Hadi tells The News on Sunday.

The Child Protection Institute, working under the Ministry of Human Rights, has dealt with 260 cases of child protection since its inauguration in June 2021. 243 of the children were boys and 17 girls. A majority of the cases handled by the CPI were referred by ICT Police (173). Around 30 children were rescued by the CPI child protection officers. Another 57 were referred by other sources.

258 of the cases have already been closed. 125 cases of the cases involved beggary, 56 child labour, 30 garbage pickers, 15 drug abuse, 9 sexual abuse and 20 criminal neglect. A majority of the children were 11 to 15 years old.

Established under Child Protection Act 2018, the Child Protection Institute was inaugurated on June 10, 2021. The institute is dedicated to ensuring the safety, well-being and rights of children in distress. With a team of experienced professionals, the institute provides a range of services, such as shelter, rehabilitation, counselling and family reunification, aimed at protecting and supporting children facing challenging circumstances.

The CPI was first inaugurated in Hummak. It was later transferred to H-9. It has recently been moved to a central location in the city. The facility is fully functional now and offers a range of essential services.
The CPI is located within two kilometres of a medical centre and a police station, as required under international standards. It’s central location minimises travel time and enhances the overall convenience for those requiring the institute’s services. With hospitals and police stations in close proximity, the institute can collaborate more effectively with these critical entities to ensure the well-being and safety of children under its care.

“One of the first steps taken after moving the CPI to the new location was to operationalise its helpline 1121 and website. Even though the institute is in its teething stage as it awaits recruitments against approved posts and allocation of funds that have been frozen under the government’s austerity drive, it is now fully functional and receiving cases on a regular basis,” says Rabeea.

Rabeea says that, in order to provide a protective and nurturing environment and shelter to children in need, the CPI intends to establish a purpose-built Child Protection One-Stop Centre aimed at making specialised services available under one roof for survivors of child abuse and neglect. She appreciates the support extended by the Ministry of Human Rights.

“Land has already been acquired for a purpose-built structure that will be designed to accommodate children from various backgrounds, including victims of abuse, neglect and exploitation, as well as those in need of alternative care arrangements. It will include residential quarters, classrooms, medical clinic, recreational areas and administrative offices and will provide a safe and nurturing environment for vulnerable children, ensuring their physical, emotionsal and psychological well-being,” she says.

She says the current facility has been designed along child-friendly principles, such as safe and accessible spaces, sensory stimulation and recreational amenities. “…It will be equipped to provide specialised rehabilitation services for children with a history of drug addiction. The new building will also include an education centre as most schools hesitate to admit such children. There will be space marked for counselling and guidance of the parents of vulnerable children.”

Rabeea says that currently, the institute provides shelter to boys but not girls. “Until a female warden is recruited, we have this arrangement of referring the girls’ cases to the Family Protection and Rehabilitation Centre. The cases are followed by CPI staff as per CPI process from here.”

She says the PC 1 (project digest) for the girl’s section has been approved. funds were allocated last year but have been frozen under the current austerity drive. “As soon as the funds are released, the girl’s section will start service delivery operations,” she adds.

Till that happens, she says, the focus would remain on providing high quality care and support for children in distress within the existing resources. “With limited human and financial resources and technical support by the UNICEF, the institute is functional and delivering. With better budget allocation and recruitment on approved positions, the CPI can be made a model child protection service delivery platform for the whole country.”

The writer is a reporter for The News International

Protecting vulnerable children