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Webinar 6: Child Protection System Mapping and Assessment

Webinar Summary and Recording

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On June 27, 2012, the Social Service Workforce Strengthening Alliance hosted its sixth webinar on the topic of Child Protection System Mapping and Assessment. The session began with opening remarks from Brigette De Lay of UNICEF during which she summarized developments from the conference on Child Protection Systems in sub-Saharan Africa held this past May in Dakar, Senegal and discussed the role of the workforce within child protection systems.

The first presentation was given by Guy Thompstone of Child Frontiers. Mr. Thompstone explained the purpose of mapping and assessment as threefold: to ascertain the context in which the current system developed, to understand how the system is structured and how it functions, and to identify both perceptions of the formal system and alternative, informal practices relevant to child protection. In order to achieve these goals, the Child Frontiers mapping and assessment process includes qualitative and quantitative research methods, a review of primary and secondary data sources as well as existing literature, a survey of the social welfare sector, national service mapping, semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions with service providers, community leaders, families and children. Mr. Thompstone shared three major findings. First, the lack of resources devoted to social welfare and gaps in staff capacity often inhibit the workforce’s ability to meet expectations. Furthermore, the staff and resources that exist are often inequitably distributed. Secondly, formal system practices are often incongruent with community needs, practices and expectations and when resources are insufficient to support the formal system, social welfare practitioners may return to custom. Lastly, non-governmental organizations play a significant role in service provision and they are often less formalized and more closely aligned with local communities.

In the second presentation, Manolo Cabran shared his experience from Maestral’s child protection system mapping exercise in Malawi. The process was led by Malawi’s Ministry of Gender, Children and Community Development with oversight provided by the National Technical Working Group on Child Protection and technical implementation by Maestral. The purpose of this exercise was to inform the development of the Government Child Protection Strategy for 2012-16 and to establish a baseline for the costed implementation plan of the Child Care, Protection and Justice Act. Maestral’s approach involved gathering all available information on child protection from social welfare and justice systems at both national and local levels. They conducted interviews with key informants and documented the proliferation of social welfare staff and their training, roles and responsibilities. Final recommendations included setting standards and operational guidelines for effective service delivery, addressing rural/urban disparities, and creating mechanisms for in-service training.

Patrick Onyango, Country Director of the Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation in Uganda, served as a discussant. Mr. Onyango affirmed that the mapping process in Uganda helped to identify resources at the community level as well as gaps and the need for additional training. Mr. Onyango emphasized the importance of linking informal community actors to formal systems. These linkages provide a conduit for information about the activities of informal actors and permit the formal system to tap into social capital held at the community level. However, informal actors are loosely organized and not recognized within government mandate or service delivery structures. Mr. Onyango noted that efforts to reach informal community-level actors, train them and connect them to formal systems faced many challenges.

Stephen Adongo, Director of Ghana’s Department of Social Welfare served as a second discussant, continuing  the conversation with comments on Ghana’s mapping process, which identified the structure and function of the social service workforce. Mr. Adongo defined informal community actors as chiefs, tribal headsman, religious leaders, and local political leaders, as well as families themselves.  He then enumerated some of the challenges associated with linking formal and informal sectors. Mr. Adongo suggested incorporating community-level actors into child panels and offering training on child protection as well as adding the activities of informal sector into formal system protocols. Jim McCaffery, Deputy Director of CapacityPlus concluded the session by offering his thoughts on the difficulty of accessing data when so many different actors hold information as well as the importance of using the data we do gather to inform policy and interventions. Ms. De Lay also offered final remarks, highlighting the importance of assessing the social service workforce within the context of broader systems mapping, rather than in isolation. Government often views itself as a direct service provider, but mapping tells us that this may not be the most rational choice in scarce resource settings. It is also important to seek out the perceptions and experiences of community members in order to identify barriers to accessing services including mistrust.

For more information about the programs presented during the webinar, see links below:

Policy and Programming Resource Guide for Child Protection Systems Strengthening in Sub-Saharan Africa

Mapping and Assessing Child Protection Systems in West and Central Africa: A Five-Country Analysis Paper