Kids walking to school

Child protection: the 5 things that stop me quitting 

Despite being desk-bound, Bill still finds ways to be inspired and motivated about working to protect children 

Bill Forbes, Global Sector Lead, Child Protection and Participation 

Child protection is a tough field – it is a struggle against horrific forms of abuse and exploitation, in complex contexts, against so many antagonistic forces.  There is no easy or clear approach to this work.  And that’s one of the reasons that it is such a passion, a calling – I love that it is such a huge, complex and important challenge. 

Anyone who works in child protection knows that it is too easy to get cynical, burned out, delusional, or just tired. I have worked in this field for a quarter of a century, and here are five things that have helped me avoid that and (mostly) stay inspired and positively challenged: 

  1. Seeing the commitment and passion of staff and community partners on the front line, as they work to address terribly difficult issues in deeply challenging contexts 
  2. Witnessing the courage and creativity of parents and communities that are being transformed, to better care for and protect children 
  3. Meeting children who are finding their voice and demonstrate such incredible resilience, even in the midst of immense challenges 
  4. Stimulating interaction with peers and experts in the field of child protection about what we can do to actually strengthen the protective environment around children, and the many challenges that we face in that effort 
  5. Considering my call to the work of child protection a sacred calling. Whether, like me, you are a person of faith or not, there is something truly sacred about protecting the planet’s most vulnerable people. 

Since the pandemic, thanks to lockdown and travel restrictions, many of these motivating factors have either been moved into the virtual world, or even disappeared from my work. I’ll be honest, stuck at a desk, in my bedroom, in front of my computer it has been a challenge to stay motivated. 

To keep myself inspired I have leaned into connecting virtually with peers and experts from other organisations and agencies, academia, and many other walks of life around our shared effort to strengthen child protection. These connections were not for self-promotion, but rather for honest dialogue, reflection, learning and mutual support with the struggle. 

Some of the more energizing recent opportunities to connect included two panels in the Global Solutions Summit Series organized by the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children. The sessions were focused on questions emerging from our many efforts to strengthen child protection in humanitarian and fragile contexts.  

We had great panellists from a broad range of contexts, including UN agencies, international and local NGOs, field programs, donors, global think tanks, and youth and children themselves. We engaged in a conversation about our shared struggles and learning…not just declaring what we are doing in the field, but instead exploring what we are learning and what challenges are we facing in this work.  

I loved it. I was so energised by the honesty, wisdom and integrity of the conversation. And I took away from those sessions a number of new contacts, insights, and energy to carry on this challenging work. Indications are that others felt the same way, based on the great feedback from many participants, and, for one of the sessions, the fact that 197 out of 200 participants stayed on 40 minutes beyond the scheduled time!  

Because this was such a great conversation, I am looking forward to the next two webinars in this series: 

  • What’s faith got to do with it? Engaging Faith Leaders and Faith Communities for Ending Violence Against Children on November 30. You can register for that webinar here. 

  • Cases from the field - Child Protection During Covid-19, Evidence from Eight Countries (date to be confirmed, January 2022)  

I look forward to again being stimulated, challenged, stretched and provoked as we wrestle with critical topics, identify lessons learned, and speak honestly about ongoing challenges. If you also find this sort of discussion motivating too, please join us, by clicking on the registration link above.   

Also have a listen to our first Solutions Summit panel on Level Level Solutions for Child Protection in fragile and humanitarian context here (password is q?G$VQb0)  


Bill Forbes is the Global Lead of Child Protection and Participation for World Vision International.  Bill provides strategic leadership to World Vision's efforts to strengthen  prevention and response to abuse, exploitation and neglect of children as well as strengthening children’s voice and participation in the world's most difficult places. Follow him on @bforbes2