Community based child protection

A community-based child protection mechanism (CBCPM) is a network or group of individuals at community level who work in a coordinated way toward child protection goals. Communities can provide significant ways of preventing and responding to child protection risks. Even in situations of mass displacement where no ‘community’ is easy to see, groups of people can organise themselves to support children at risk.

When to use community-based child protection

  • When children are exposed to a wide range of protection threats
  • When existing child protection services and provision is not adequately keeping children safe
  • When there is a lack of awareness at community level about strategies for keeping children safe
CBCPM Plan diagram
Roles and functions of CBCPMs, Plan International, Community-based action for child protection: Global guidance on CBCPM

How to develop and support community-based child protection mechanisms 


  • Carry out assessments with community members to identify existing internal and external methods of supporting children at risk
  • Analyse whether there are any state mandated community mechanisms for child protection
  • Map local service providers and support mechanisms (e.g. women’s groups, health workers, police, teachers, religious leaders) and their strengths and weaknesses

Support and develop CBCPMs

  • Effective CBCPMs include local structures and traditional or informal processes for promoting or supporting the wellbeing of children
  • Build on existing processes, resources and capacities in CBCPMs to provide child-friendly support and services
  • Do not assume that it is necessary to set up new CBCPMs – in some contexts it may be possible to include child protection prevention and response in existing structures such as village development committees
  • Natural helpers and local leaders should be involved, including village chiefs, camp leaders, women leaders, respected elders and religious leaders, and children or existing youth groups or networks
  • Entirely new committees or groups may be difficult to maintain, and groups that are set up alongside existing mechanisms undermine existing support
  • Capacity building – CBCPM members need recognition and capacity building in order to understand their roles and take part in effective work. Training of CBCPM members should use methods of dialogue and mutual learning, and build on local understanding of children and their needs

Support CBCPMs to develop and deliver projects to deal with child protection concerns in the community

  • By integrating a community-based protection approach, the actions of humanitarian agencies aim to empower communities to increase their safety. This is achieved through actions aimed at reducing threats, reducing vulnerability and increasing capacity
  • Provide support for these initiatives where necessary and appropriate (recognising that providing support to CBCPMs can support their activities but could reduce the sense of community ownership and sustainability)
  • Facilitate CBCPMs to discuss and prioritise protection problems and strategies – try to involve as many groups as possible, as different problems will be important to different groups
  • A comprehensive set of tools for this process is provided in Action Aid (2010), Safety with Dignity – a field based manual for integrating community-based child protection across humanitarian programmes 

Support CBCPMs to manage child protection concerns

  • Identifying at-risk and vulnerable children and keeping a simple register, including:
    • children with disabilities
    • children without birth certificates
    • children who are head of their household
    • children who are not going to school
  • Making referrals or helping children and families to access support services (e.g. healthcare, education, psychosocial support, family tracing and reunification)
  • Mediating in cases where appropriate – following up cases which can be resolved by discussion or mediation, or mediating reunification of separated children
  • Referring cases to police and district child protection authorities and reporting criminal cases
  • Following up cases – check with police or other authorities to see that cases have been followed up, and visiting children and families after the involvement of the CBCPM

Community-level messaging

  • Support CBCPMs to conduct effective community-level messaging on preventing violence, exploitation and abuse of children, as well as dangers related to accidents:
    • Physical risks (for example, separation of children from their families; which places are dangerous to play in; which landmines and explosive remnants of war are present and how to identify them)
    • Risk reduction, preparation and coping (for example, how to avoid family separation; how to prepare for aftershocks following an earthquake; and how the community can reduce risks to children)
  • Information can be addressed to children, caregivers, and communities. It should be focused on positive action local people can take.
  • Messages should be delivered through effective communication channels. Mass media such as radio and text messaging and cultural media such as ceremonies, songs and dances can be very useful in influencing children and other affected people
  • Consider that the way the message is delivered will dictate who is included and who is excluded


  • Develop informal or formal action with communities and partners to encourage local authorities to respect, protect and fulfil rights
  • Work with communities to identify the change they want, identify the audience and target messages in order to develop appropriate and safe advocacy methods
  • Advocacy does not need to be a public campaign – it can be conducted in private and be direct or indirect

Support linking with formal child protection systems

CBCPMs are most effective if they are connected with the resources and child protection networks present at community, regional and national levels.

  • Build community capacities for identifying and referring children and families for the services needed (this should include referring children who have been severely affected for specialised help)
  • Support CBCPMs to develop links with formal (governmental) aspects of the national child protection system at local, regional and national levels, including:
    • police services
    • social workers
    • HIV/AIDS and health workers
    • child welfare services
    • education services
    • the juvenile justice  system


  • Work with the community to include in CBCPMs different subgroups, including women, girls, boys and highly vulnerable people such as people with disabilities
  • When appropriate, encourage existing or newly organised adolescent and youth groups to be involved in CBCPMs and child protection issues

Monitoring and Evaluation

Sample indicators:

  • % of community members and CBCPM members who demonstrate knowledge of child protection risks, laws, solutions and referral systems
  • % of girls and boys in the community who demonstrate knowledge of the action they can take to protect themselves from violence and abuse
  • Evidence of cases brought to the CBCPM or interventions by the CBCPM which are resolved to the satisfaction of the child concerned i.e. on his/her own terms and in his/her best interests

Additional tools and resources

Information on this page is primarily taken from the Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (Standard 17: Community-level approaches), Plan International, Community-based action for child protection: Global guidance on CBCPM and Action Aid (2010), Safety with Dignity – a field based manual for integrating community-based child protection across humanitarian programmes 

Additional tools and resources are available here

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