Protecting Young Children From Violence in Colombia: Linking Caregiver Empathy With Community Child Rights Indicators as a Pathway for Peace in Medellin’s Comuna 13

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Abstract

Colombia has experienced historically high levels of community and domestic violence, with young children ages 0–6 being at particular risk of psychosocial harm. This results from a number of risk factors associated with 1 of the longest lasting civil conflicts in the world. Young children are particularly at risk in Colombia due to their physical vulnerability in the midst of high levels of domestic and community violence. The following program applied a unique model addressing young children’s psychosocial well-being. The initiative built the capacity for caregiver empathy combining a positive parenting approach with community early learning strengths, child rights, and community empowerment methods. Case study research documenting the application of this model in Comuna 13, a Colombian community with high levels of civil conflict, showed that this integrated empathy and empowerment approach resulted in improved outcomes for children and their families. At the community level the initiative strengthened municipal formal and nonformal child protection systems, including the creation of “pathways for peace,” or zones of peace in violent neighborhoods. This article presents an overview of the case study methodology and preliminary findings of this 3-year applied research initiative. The findings are summarized in relation to contextual, assets approaches to peace-building with vulnerable children, and families at the center of restorative practice.

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