Saturday, May 15, 2021

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Child help line is a phone service that links children in need of care and protection to essential services and resources. The concept of child help line was mooted way back in 1998 with increasing cases of child abuse. The Department in partnership with other societies set up a crisis desk where, members of the public could call the number(228844) and report the worst forms of child abuse. The caller used to bear the cost of calling hence limiting accessibility to the service. In 2006 the first toll free line (0800-221-00800) was introduced being run by child line Kenya. The service faced challenges as it was only accessible via only one telecommunication company (Telkom Kenya)

The Department of Children’s Services in collaboration with Child line Kenya used these experiences and lobbied for an all-inclusive service hence the birth of 116 which became operational in March, 2008. Child help line 116 situated at Kabete in Nairobi was launched on 31st May, 2008 and has been operating in partnership between the Government through the Department of Children services and Child Line Kenya. It draws its success from cooperation and support of partners. It begun with voice only but has expanded to include SMS and chats.

116 is a service of the Department of Children’s Service with Childline Kenya providing technical support. There two satellite centres in Eldoret and Garissa but Kabete provides oversight and training All cases reported terminated at Kabete then through fiber connectivity rerouted to Eldoret at the moment.

The child help line was established to offer the following services:
• Provide 24 hour toll free emergency public line for reporting all cases for children in need of care & protection.
• Keep a National database on calls made on issues raised by children.
• Provide counseling and referral services for all children in danger and distress.
• Acts as a referral source for therapeutic of abused children.
• Works together with stakeholders in children sector to advocate for children’s rights and protection.
• Provide a plat form for networking amongst stakeholders/ and provide linkages to support systems that facilitate the rehabilitation of abused children.
• To advise, counsel and assist parents experiencing difficulties with their children.

Children call the help line with different issues requiring different interventions. Some of the cases reported include child neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, school related, custody and maintenance, FGM, early/forced marriages, child labor, child prostitution, child trafficking among others. The helpline can only receive and direct the child to services available where they are.
The calls are classified into the following broad categories: Abuse, education & career, Family and community, General information, Health/basic needs and Non- intervention. The Department of Children Services is committed to protecting and promoting the rights and welfare of the child. Its roles are as follows:
• The custodian of 116.
• Acts as a link between various Government departments and coordinates emergency responses.
• Define criteria and standards for services for all children.
• Use data generated from the Helpline to influence policy formulation in the best interest of the child.
• Provides premises as well as budgetary support for the operation of 116.
• Provide necessary personnel to the Helpline.
• Investigate cases, undertake rescue missions for children in distress.
• Assist children access justice or any other service they may need.
• Mobilize resources and undertake publicity and awareness creation on the service.

The Government single handedly cannot handle/ respond to all children issues due to the enormous increase in number if issues affecting children hence, the keenness in building partnership with well-meaning organizations working for children in Kenya.
Success stories:
1. Establishment of safe house for children rescued from abusive situation( Physical and sexual abuse)The safe opened its doors to children in December 2012 to cater specially for sexually and physically abused children
2. Increased awareness and trust (policing calling to inquire on children matters)
3. Conviction of some of the perpetrators
4. Piloting of parenting programme as a way of preventing child abuse

Emerging trends
1. Rising levels of truancy and drug abuse especially among children from dysfunctional families
2. Sexual abuse by pre-primary teachers
3. Early marriage whereby children are taking themselves to be married without being forced especially in communities practicing FGM

1. Prank and Silent calls
2. Cost of running Service
3. Network Challenges (i.e. fiber cuts)
4. Abuse within the family and deliberate cover-up
5. Finding the right support for the children in areas where there are no partners (especially legal services)
6. Cases dragging in the justice system leading to witnesses getting weary
7. Casual way of handling investigations in cases of abused children
8. Limited resources among the government agencies who should be the first respondents
9. Misunderstanding of the working of the helpline

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