African Girls








Overcoming Child Vulnerability




Vulnerability is the state of being open to injury, or appearing as if you are.  This could also be emotional; it is the quality of being easily hurt or attacked.  In other words, able to be easily physically, emotionally, or mentally hurt, influenced or attacked.


It refers to the inability to withstand the effects of a hostile environment and all its ramifications.  Vulnerability is also being capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt as by a weapon.


In all these specific definitions, children undeniably stands this risk of being vulnerable especially because they are exposed to these conditions and are increasingly becoming victims of targeted attacks.


Child vulnerability can be measured by the degree to which a child can avoid or modify the impact of safety threats.  Each child’s age, physical, intellectual and social development, emotional/behavioral functioning role in the family and ability to protect him/herself contributes or decreases the likelihood of serious harm.   Several forms of vulnerability are observed with regards to children.


  1. Vulnerability to maltreatment: it is not the responsibility of children, regardless of age to provide protection for themselves.  The parents/caretakers have the ultimate responsibility to protect the child.  Child vulnerability to maltreatment varies.  Here, it must be clear that very young children (infants, toddlers and preschoolers), pre-verbal children, and children with developmental delays or physical or medical conditions are more likely to experience serious and permanent harm from both physical abuse and neglect.


  1. Trauma-informed decisions: trauma comes in several forms and from different causes. The field of child welfare recognizes the impact of past trauma on children and their ability to function.  This includes, of course, an assessment of the types and degree of maltreatment the child has experienced.  Trauma also includes witnessing domestic, community or social violence, natural or man-made disaster, forced displacement, war or terrorism or traumatic separation and grief.

Assessment of child vulnerability should be considered from several perspectives as follows:


  • The child’s ability to protect self
  • The child’s age
  • The child’s ability to communicate
  • The likelihood of serious harm given the child’s development
  • The provocativeness of the child’s behaviour or temperament
  • The child’s behavioural needs
  • The child’s physical special needs
  • The visibility of the child to others/child’s access to individuals who can protect
  • Family composition
  • The child’s physical appearance, size and robustness
  • The child’s resilience and problem-solving skills
  • The child’s prior victimization
  • The child’s ability to recognize abuse and neglect

Child vulnerability must be taken care of by all.  This is a fact because the vulnerability of the child is the vulnerability of us all!





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