Sharjah launches one-stop 'shelter' for child abuse victims

Through this centre, a child no longer needs to visit multiple offices for reporting, investigations, and therapy — now, all these go under one roof


Nandini Sircar

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Photos by M. Sajjad
Photos by M. Sajjad

Published: Thu 9 Nov 2023, 5:50 PM

Last updated: Fri 10 Nov 2023, 8:19 AM

Sharjah authorities on Thursday launched a one-stop centre where children can freely report abuse to the police and get legal, psychological, and social support at the same time. Victims no longer have to undergo repetitive interviews.

Called Kanaf — which means 'shelter' — the child protection centre will start operations next week, welcoming all nationalities.

While Sharjah is already equipped with specialised entities for social services, this centre offers a more comprehensive support, a top official said during the launch.

"What sets this centre apart is that children no longer have to visit multiple entities for reporting, investigation, and treatment," said Hanadi Alyafei, director-general of Child Safety.

The new multi-agency facility creates an environment where children and their families can get all the help that they need. The initiative comes as part of the emirate's commitment to protecting the vulnerable.

“The process involves the child having a one-stop experience in a child-friendly building, emphasising the importance of interviewing the child just once, instead of multiple times at different locations," Alyafei said.

Hanadi Alyafei
Hanadi Alyafei

"Treatment and support are offered in a single place until the child is ready to return home.”

How the process works

Cases are received through the child protection helpline 800700, operated by the Sharjah Social Services Department. The centre filters these cases, identifying the genuine ones, and redirects them accordingly.

Kanaf and its partners then evaluates the case, determining whether it is physical or sexual abuse.

“The second stage known as ‘Joint Assessment’ during which the social worker at Kanaf meets with relevant partners and holds the first case conference," said. Ameena Al Refaei, manager of Kanaf.

"The third stage, ‘child Interview’, involves assigning a representative from the mental health unit to accompany the authorised person in hearing the child’s account.”

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

“In the next stage, a ‘legal case’ is filed after verifying all data, medical examination results, and information obtained from the child’s interview. The social services department appoints a legal representative for the child,” she added.

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.

Dr Safiya Alkhaja, director of Al Qassimi Women’s and Children’s Hospital said: “The final stage involves providing psychological 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 customized treatment plan is designed to address the needs of the victim and their family members. The plan that may vary for from case to case includes therapeutic and rehabilitative programmes based on best practices.”


Different stakeholders

Maj-Gen Saif Al Zari Al Shamsi, Commander-in-Chief of Sharjah Police, said: “Several divisions within the emirate were established to safeguard young individuals. Some people do not approach the police first so we want to raise awareness amongst people through different types of messaging and various stakeholders.”

In addition to the Child Safety Department (CSD), which coordinates and manages the contributions of various entities, Kanaf is served by nine partner entities: Federal Court of First Instance Sharjah, the Public Prosecution in Sharjah, the General Command of Sharjah Police, the 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 its branches.

All these Sharjah Government departments have set up operations at the Kanaf centre.

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