Kanaf child protection
The inauguration of Kanaf, the interdisciplinary multi-agency child protection centre under the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA), was announced during a press conference at Sharjah’s iconic House of Wisdom (HoW). Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: Kanaf, the interdisciplinary multi-agency child protection centre under the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA), has commenced operations, the Child Safety Department (CSD) in Sharjah has announced.

Under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of the SCFA, Kanaf was formally established in 2020 and has led three years of meticulous planning, organisation, and training to enable relevant partnering entities to provide integrated referral and treatment services at its state-of-the-art facility, which is now open.

Furthering CSD’s mission to standardise child protection services, Kanaf will offer specialised legal, psychological and social support to young victims of abuse and their guardians in a safe and supportive environment.

The inauguration was announced during a press conference at Sharjah’s iconic House of Wisdom (HoW), attended by Hanadi Al Yafei, Director General of CSD, and Ameena Al Refaei, Manager of Kanaf.

Kanaf’s partners outlined their collective efforts in launching the innovative project, operating under the theme ‘Safe Again,’ and highlighted their specific roles.

Kanaf child protection
Ameena Al Refaei highlighted the collaborative responsibility shared by public and private entities in ensuring the welfare of Sharjah society.

The Higher Committee of Kanaf, comprising key figures from various entities, emphasized a proactive approach to safeguarding children from abuse. Hanadi Al Yafei stressed the societal need for greater courage in recognising, addressing, and rectifying child abuse, underscoring the importance of preemptive measures to protect the community.

Ameena Al Refaei highlighted the collaborative responsibility shared by public and private entities in ensuring the welfare of Sharjah society.

Emphasising the clear vision set by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, she reiterated the role of Kanaf in fulfilling this vision under the guidance and support of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi.

Six stages

Kanaf’s child protection services, modeled after the Barnahus approach, encompass six stages.

These stages include reporting abuse, multidisciplinary meetings, forensic interviews, forensic examinations, court cases, and mental and social therapy. The process involves a seamless collaboration between various entities, such as the Sharjah Social Services Department, the Forensic Medicine Department, and the General Command of Sharjah Police, among others.

Kanaf child protection
Image Credit: Supplied

The significance of media collaboration to promote Kanaf’s efforts was also highlighted, addressing the diverse population of over 200 nationalities in Sharjah and the UAE. The event also expressed gratitude to the Sharjah Municipality for its substantial support, recognizing the importance of local institutions and community members in endorsing Kanaf’s mission to protect children.

Comprehensive child protection services delivered in six stages

Child protection services offered by Kanaf emulates the Barnahus model, and comprises six specialised stages from reporting to providing psychological support to victims of abuse.

First, a case of abuse must be reported to the Sharjah Social Services Department on their Child Protection Hotline 800700. After listening to the account of abuse, the case is categorised as physical or sexual by Kanaf and its partners.

At this stage, Kanaf prepares to receive the abused child and the witnesses thereof.

The second stage, known as ‘Multi-disciplinary meeting’ during which the social worker at Kanaf meets with relevant partners and holds the first case conference. This assessment aims to evaluate the child and review shared data to create treatment plans tailored to the specific case.

The third stage, Forensic Interview, involves assigning a representative from the Mental Health Unit to accompany the authorised person in hearing the child’s account. This stage is designed to gather evidence and clarify the incident.

The fourth stage, "Forensic Exam" involves the preparation of a report that includes the child’s medical history and the results of a comprehensive physical examination.

In cases of suspected sexual abuse, a specialised medical examination is conducted at the centre to detect signs or symptoms and document evidence. A family intervention program is also provided at this stage to help families cope and adapt, as well as treat trauma if family members exhibit signs.

In the fifth stage, a court case is filed after verifying all data, medical examination results, and information obtained during the forensic interview, and the Social Services Department appoints a legal representative for the child. The case file is then referred to the judiciary and closely monitored to ensure the child’s virtual presence at court sessions, accompanied by the legal representative and a representative from the Mental Health Unit.

The sixth and final stage involves providing mental and social therapy. This stage is guided by the child’s mental health history, and a thorough evaluation of the potential impact of abuse. A customised treatment plan is designed to address the needs of the victim and their family members. The plan includes therapeutic and rehabilitative programmes based on best practices.

Partners’ responsibilities and tasks

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In addition to CSD, which coordinates and manages the contributions of various entities, overseeing the child protection system through the preparation of periodic reports and statistics, Kanaf is served by nine partnering entities:

  • The Federal Court of First Instance Sharjah
  • The Public Prosecution in Sharjah,
  • The General Command of Sharjah Police
  • Tthe Emirates Health Services Establishment,
  • The Emirates Schools Establishment,
  • The Sharjah Social Services Department,
  • The Sharjah Private Education Authority,
  • The Forensic Medicine Department, and
  • The Family Development Department and Branches.

All these specialised Sharjah Government departments have set up operations at the Kanaf centre to exclusively serve cases reported at the centre. Together, they form an integrated care system under the umbrella of Kanaf, providing for the needs of child victims all under one roof.

The Sharjah Social Services Department is tasked with receiving and recording reports related to child victims through the Child Protection Helpline 800700. They also provide social, psychological, legal, and social care services to protect children.

The Emirates Health Services Establishment offers medical support services, conducts comprehensive medical examinations for children, and facilitates complete physical recovery.

In cases requiring further examination, the Forensic Medicine Department at the Ministry of Justice conducts forensic examinations for the child upon the prosecution’s request and prepares a report of the results. The General Command of Sharjah Police is tasked with any necessary measures to ensure the child’s safety, as well as collecting evidence related to any investigation upon the prosecution’s request.

Sharjah Public Prosecution is responsible for working alongside the judiciary in Sharjah to handle child abuse cases, ensuring compliance with prosecution procedures. They provide hospital reports, necessary investigations, and forensic examinations if required.

The Federal Court of First Instance ensures adherence to the law, reaching a fair judgement, and protecting the rights of individuals and families according to national standards.

Kanaf child protection
Image Credit: Supplied

Beyond health and legal aspects

Kanaf’s responsibilities extend beyond health and legal aspects to include social care and education. The Family Development Department and branches, an affiliate of theSCFA, provides consultations for families and parents of child abuse victims, guiding them on the best ways to address the child’s psychological and emotional consequences.

The Emirates Schools Establishment and the Sharjah Private Education Authority ensure the child’s safety in academic institutions such as schools and nurseries. They also offer advice and various support services for children and abuse victims, enabling them to continue their educational journey.

The press conference concluded with Kanaf expressing their gratitude towards the Sharjah Municipality for its significant support, emphasising that it will offer local institutions and members of the community a strong incentive to promote Kanaf’s efforts to protect children