Child Focus launches prevention programme: “Every child of 12 should have a Max”

"Malika (the name is an alias) is 12 years old. After arguing with her family, she left home without her ID or smartphone. Malika’s mother is expecting her to come back later that night. She does not. Hours go by. Without any news, Child Focus opens a case and starts the research with the police. Everything is set up to find Malika in good health: call to witnesses, posters… But there are no solid leads. After three weeks of intense research, the young girl is finally found” says Miguel Torres Garcia, Deputy chief Operation officer at Child Focus. “Each year, we open about 700 cases like Malika’s”. What if Malika had a person she trusts to talk to? Someone who is available to listen to her? Do you think she would have chosen to run away from her problems?

Date 2021-06-02 Author Belgian Safer Internet Centre Section awareness Topic media literacy/education Audience children and young people

Child Focus deals with about three new cases of missing children per day, and 80 per cent are children running away. In 2020, Child Focus dealt with 304 cases (62 per cent more than in 2019) of sexual abuse of minors (problematic sexting, grooming, sextortion). Child Focus noticed that all those cases had a common ground: the child had nobody to talk to. Children and youth face difficulties, often interpersonal, in the real world or online, but they do not talk about their concerns enough. They remain alone, which causes other problems or worsens the ones they already have. Therefore, Child Focus has launched the Max concept: they want every child aged 10-12 to have someone they can trust, a Max. The Foundation wants to reach 125,000 children every year, thanks to educational programmes initiated in schools, and thanks to straightforward communication.

Thanks to this ambitious prevention project, Child Focus encourages children to think about the possibility of choosing an adult they can trust, a Max. Children should be aware that, most probably, there is a person in their surroundings who is ready to help them before their problems occur, or when they already have occurred. Child Focus also wishes to help children to dare talking about their difficulties and then move on peacefully. They should understand that it is “normal” to ask for help if something is not okay. Taboos must be broken.

Graphic design representing the Max - to each their own, by Child Focus

Every child should have a Max

Children should completely trust their Max. They should be able to ask them questions, to talk about their concerns, or just to chat. The Max should be someone who is not judgmental, with whom they get along and who is always available. The Max should be a person chosen by the child, and not the other way around. A child can have several Max’s: a brother, a cousin, the babysitter, a supervisor, a teacher, a neighbour, and so on.

The Max has to accept the request of the child. This new bond will not break after the child turns 12, the goal is to continue the project. On the websites www.iedereeneenmax or www.chacunsonmax.be, children can send a request to their future Max, thanks to a feature allowing to create a Max-mix video. 

Max is a ‘universal prevention’ concept. Child Focus is convinced that every child has the right to grow and evolve in a world that gives him all his chances, and that respects their rights. One of the rights is the right ’to be heard’. This prevention project allows mostly to offer support to vulnerable children when they need it the most, to help them overcome all the problems that they might face.

Heidi De Pauw, CEO of Child Focus

You can find more information about the “Chacun son Max” initiative on the website, available both in French and Dutch.

Find out more about Safer Internet Day in Belgium. Alternatively, find out more about the work and initiatives of the Belgian Safer Internet Centre, or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe. On the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) platform, additional useful tools can be found in the resource repository and in the Guide to apps section.

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