Our Child Protection Work in Kenya


Keeping Children Safe from Harm



Save the Children has been operational in Kenya since the 1950s, providing support to children through developmental and humanitarian relief programmes delivered both directly and through local partners. Current Save the Children programming in Kenya focuses on Health, Nutrition and WASH, Child Protection, Child Rights Governance, Education and Child Poverty. . In 2012, as part of a global reorganization process, Save the Children combined the programmes of SC UK, SC Canada and SC Finland to cre-ate a single operation in Kenya. In February 2014, we completed a second transition, which saw us join forces with the British INGO, Merlin, and merge their health and nutrition programmes with our own . Save the Children has an operational presence in Bungoma, Busia, Garissa (Dadaab Refugee Camp), Mandera, Nairobi, Turkana and Wajir counties and works through partners in many other parts of the country.



Despite strong economic growth in recent years, 46% of Kenyans still live below the poverty line[1]. Poverty, poor law enforcement and a lack of services for children mean that children in Kenya are vulnerable to a wide range of child rights violations which include neglect, abandonment, physical and humiliating punishment, sexual abuse, child labour, early marriages and trafficking.

 This situation is compounded by recurrent periods of serious drought in recent years which have led to food insecurity in parts of the country and have placed further pressure on families. Save the Children also estimates that 200,000 children currently live in institutions because their parents are unable to provide them with adequate care and protection.




Save the Children is committed to increasing children’s protection against violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect, and to support children’s recovery when these violations do occur. We are focusing our efforts on helping the most vulnerable children in the country through the following approaches


  1. Increasing safety for children in emergencies through building the capacity of community based structures in identifying, reporting and response.   
  2. Strengthening child protection systems through collaboration with the government (Ministry of Education, Department of Children Services) to benefit most vulnerable children across the country.
  3. Building partnerships, which support implementation of interventions for children deprived of parental care. 
  4. Nurture learning initiatives that contribute to advocacy for action as well as local and global attention to issues affecting children.



Increasing safety for children in emergencies  

We are keeping Dadaab’s most vulnerable children protected from harm through a community based approach to implementing interventions to gender-based violence, harmful traditional practices, physical abuse, discrimination and psychosocial distress. This being a refugee context, resources continues to dwindle in light of other emerging emergencies globally. This approach enables Save the Children to improve access to child protection services for children who have experienced abuse or are at risk of any violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. We have established and are providing support for Child Welfare Committees across four camps that support the case management process in identifying, referring vulnerable children to essential services critical for their protection. The community based structures are essential in supporting interventions planned in the case management process. We are also providing community-based psychosocial counselling designed to reduce the negative impact on children’s emotional wellbeing. For children deprived of parental care (unaccompanied, separated from families or those living in abusive families), we work with local authorities to place these most vulnerable children with foster families so they can be cared for in a safe family environment. Positive discipline and modelling good behavior are some of the successful training packages provided to the community.


Behavior modeling and Positive parenting: Provided within the alternative family care approach for vulnerable children in Dadaab:

Positive discipline activities are embedded in the broader child protection program to provide interventions in addressing humiliating punishment in families. Activities are delivered in sessions allowing application and feedback. The training tools incorporate fostering problem-solving in non-violent ways.  The program fosters understanding of how punishment effects immediate compliance affecting moral internalization and leading to antisocial-behaviors. It demonstrates that positive discipline is not prescriptive but enhances self-reflection and learning. Parents build empathy through understanding children-feelings and developmental tasks in childhood and adolescence. Trained refugee staff delivers program in participant’s language hence 100% of parents commit to apply knowledge learnt

Training materials including a parenting-book have been developed in collaboration with University of Manitoba based on existing research and feedback on piloted programs.

660 parents have successfully completed the program through 30 community facilitators while sensitization challenging social norms and attitudes is ongoing. Child-friendly spaces enhance psychosocial wellbeing of traumatized children and offer protective environments and counselling strengthens families to care and protect children. Assessment conducted by PAN in 2014 revealed that 89% of the parents trained hadn’t punished children in a year



Strengthening Child Protection Systems to protect children across Kenya from violence and exploitation

Save the Children is contributing to strengthening the national child protection system that will benefit all children in Kenya. Through collaboration with the Ministry of Education, the Department of Children Services, and the National Council for Children Services and National CSOs, we are supporting ongoing actions and process that strengthen the Child Protection System in Kenya which is important in promoting the well-being of children. The focus for this approach is contribution to prevention of physical and humiliating punishment, promoting mechanisms for response and prevention of abuse and neglect and contributing to efforts of ensuring prompt and coordinated action and response to reported acts of abuse.  

  • We are providing support to strengthening the National Helpline 116, to make it more accessible to children and communities in need of protection and prompt access to services.
  • We are supporting the design and roll out of positive discipline guidelines for schools –a collaboration with MoE to enable implementation of the total ban of corporal punishment in the school setting.
  • We are supporting the design, peer review and validation of Case Management Guidelines in collaboration with the Childline Kenya the Department of Children Services to strengthen coordination of child protection services and county and community levels.



 Building partnerships to promoting Safe and Violence Free Family Environment for Children

Save the children is committed to ensure that all children in Kenya thrive in a safe family environment free from abuse and violence.  

  • We are working with Childline Kenya, a national child protection agency in two sub counties to target children at risk of separation from families and those in alternative care to be in safe family environment. This also includes strengthening families through training and linkage to economic strengthening initiatives to prevent unnecessary separation. Through this, about 500 adults will be targeted as foster parents, guardians, and including kinship care or adoptive parents. Important in this project also is training and sensitization to community to demystify adoption and foster care. 
  • We are promoting the Essential Package of Care for vulnerable children to address the needs of young vulnerable children and their caregivers. The Essential Package (EP) is a framework for action to holistically address the needs of young children (prenatal to 8 year old) and their caregivers in highly vulnerable circumstances. Save the Children has identified and trained a pool of National Actors from both government and civil society to become EP champions. SC has also translated the EP into Kiswahili and harmonized the key information, messages and visual guides to fit into the national context and policies governing all the services referred to. These individuals, and their organizations, will become instrumental in reaching out to vulnerable communities who have large numbers of young children, with limited access to caregiving practices that enable children to reach their full developmental potential. The EP recognizes that not all care for vulnerable children is being provided by biological parents and as such, it can be applied to numerous contexts where children are particularly vulnerable.


Learning initiatives that contribute to advocacy and lobby for issues affecting children.

Save the children supports evidence based work that contribute to learning and implementation of innovative approaches to child protection.  These initiatives involve strategic partnerships with child protection actors hence contribute to a larger audience committed to delivering results for children.    


  1. 1.    Interagency Learning Initiative on Community Based Child protection. Save the Children, through technical input from Colombia University; Colombia Group for Children in Adversity, is conducting an ethnographic research whose aim is to bring out evidence of the strength of community-based child protection mechanisms (CBCPMs) as fundamental elements of child protection systems. Due to their relatively easy access, or being the most likely only alternative that is available to children in responding to harms, Community Based Child Protection Mechanisms have become frontline mechanisms for protecting children from exploitation, abuse, violence, and neglect and to promote children’s well-being. The research is keen to explore on strategies that partners and stakeholders need to take note of in using the knowledge gained to link and strengthen the national child protection system in Kenya.  The research is now in its third phase which includes community based dialogues on identifying interventions for prioritized harms affecting children in two villages in Kilifi.


  1. 2.    Kinship care as an Alternative Family Care for Children in Kenya. In order to contribute to strengthening alternative family-based care for children in Kenya, Save the Children has documented information through a research that explored real life experiences of children in informal alternative care; kinship care. This study largely provided learning on the immense value placed upon kinship care by the children, care givers and the community at large. SC expects that this research will inform


  • Implementing the guidelines for Alternative Family care for children in Kenya: the State involvement in monitoring and linking these families to support services critical in addressing issues and challenges identified.
  • Inform the ongoing legal review (The Children’s Act) to ensure kinship care is referenced as the most important form of care for children deprived of parents.

[1] World Bank (2008): Kenya Poverty and Inequality Assessment-Synthesis Report. Vol 1 Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Unit, Africa Region, Nairobi, Kenya





We have focused on 3 subthemes in the child protection thematic area within which we shall focus our interventions in 2016- 2018 


  1. 1.    Appropriate care


We intend to maintain but also scale up this subtheme to include a concerted focus on national care reform for children living in residential care. In addition, promote kinship care as the most appropriate form of care for children deprived of parental care. The following are our proposed actions  

  • Support and lobby for implementation of Guidelines for alternative Family care of children in Kenya
  • Alternative care in emergencies- continue with family based care for children at risk of serious protection concerns- (separated and unaccompanied minors and others without appropriate parental care)
  • Design policy briefs to support and inform interventions for children without appropriate care
  • Inclusion of family strengthening to CP programming which includes positive parenting, child sensitive social protection and work with men as responsible fathers.
  • Advocacy for care reform in the country-strategic partnerships BCN and UNICEF to target government and national stakeholders participation


  1. 2.    Protection of children from violence, including sexual violence, children in emergencies and conflict situations.


We intend to invest and test innovative approaches to protect and prevent violence against children, while maintaining imp0lementation of the refugee program. The following actions are strategic actions

  • Support the national roll out of the positive discipline guidelines to schools in specific Save the Children project sites and test their impact.
  • Use the learning from CBCM research to design projects that demonstrate the importance of community based mechanisms to address various child rights violations in communities.  
  • Invest and test integrated projects approach that incorporate innovative interventions to CP e.g Essential Package to other thematic areas like ECD and Health/Nutrition and test their impact.
  • Incorporate ICT to improve case management in the refugee program to ensure children access timely interventions and also improve analysis of information for better programming. 
  • Alternative family based care continues to safeguard children without appropriate care in conflict situations.


  1. 3.    Child protection systems strengthening:


This is a subtheme that we intend to be a leader, through investing in strategic partnerships to strengthen the delivery of child protection interventions through formal and informal processes. Actions will involve.

  • Support and lobby for implementation of existing legislation through appropriate policies, guidelines and actions.
  • Promote case management guidelines and child friendly reporting mechanisms as integral component of quality service provision.
  • Community CP strengthening – focus on strengthening pathways between formal and informal systems
  • Advocacy for strengthening the social workforce through the Association of social work (KNASW) towards training and accreditation