Making social services work for children

By Cory Rogers, Communication Officer

Adam, 5, looks out over the fields abutting his home © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

Over the course of their childhoods, 1 out of 4 Indonesians will experience physical punishment, one in five will be bullied. An estimated 375 girls will be married, every day of the year.

In partnership with five local governments and the Ministry of Social Affairs, UNICEF Indonesia has launched a new effort to protect children from these and other threats to their safety and wellbeing. The goal? To strengthen the delivery of social services to prevent violence and abuse.

Initiated in 5 districts — one in East Java and two each in Central Java and South Sulawesi provinces — the pilot projects streamline case management, boost social worker capacity, and increase community engagement for identifying children in need.

Here’s snapshot of how the pilot is driving change in Tulungagung, East Java.

© Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

Tulungagung is home to nearly 300,000 children. Many of them, like Adam (pictured above), are the children of migrants working overseas. Adam, who was born in Malaysia, lives with his parents in a two-room home with dirt floors, no running water, and miles of farmland to explore outside his door. They returned to Indonesia last year after many years working abroad. Until recently, Adam had no birth certificate.

© Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

As the centrepiece of the pilot, a brick and mortar office (PKSAI) enables officials from various agencies to collaborate on case management. Services provided at the centre include family counselling, risks and needs assessments, foster care placement and mediation for children in conflict with the law. Outreach services are also critical to ensure all children, no matter where they live, can access services. Here, a van owned by the Tulungagung Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Agency is shared with social workers from the Social Affairs Ministry for school visits — the kind of practical inter-agency coordination that was lacking previously.

© Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

Boosting community engagement is a crucial feature of the new integrated system. Here, Arik Butiono (centre), a social worker with the PKSAI, jokes with students at SMK Islam Sunan Kalijaga Islamic boarding school outside Tulungagung. As part of their outreach, PKSAI workers send letters to schools requesting help identifying children in need of support. Arik came to assess the needs of three students said to struggling with problems at home. A fourth student lacked a birth certificate.

© Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

The emphasis on community engagement helped double the number of cases opened across the five pilots in 2016. That means better access to services for schoolchildren like those pictured here, during a break between classes.

©Dinda Veskarahmi / UNICEF / 2017

And better access for out-of-school children like Sarah* a former child bride, who is learning to sew while social workers help her re-enrol in high school.

© Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

If a child needs medical attention, a PKSAI social worker will accompany him or her to the hospital. Administrators at Dr. Iksak Hospital in Tulungagung recently implemented “fast-track” services for such children. Here, a hospital doctor displays the fast-track card hospital workers give to children when they arrive. The card allows the child to proceed directly to a physician, bypassing long queues and cumbersome questionnaires about insurance and personal history.

© Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

PKSAI social workers are called to the hospital when unaccompanied children arrive seeking care — another improvement on the old system. This 14-year-old boy came to the hospital after suffering a motorcycle accident on the night of 3 October. Administrators called the PKSAI, who sent a social worker early in the morning to assess his situation. It was discovered that the boy had run away from home in Papua Province and made his way to Tulungagung, thousands of kilometres west. The PKSAI is currently coordinating with social service agencies in the boy’s home district to determine how to get him back home to a safe environment.

© Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

As a result of increased outreach and closer coordination with the Tulungagung Civil Registration Office, the number of children lacking a birth certificate in Tulungagung has dropped from 30 per cent to 15 per cent in since 2015. Fast-track services have reduced the processing time from 7 days to 2 days for children accompanied by social workers. In September, thanks to coordination from the PKSAI, Adam received his birth certificate. Here he poses with his mother, Ibu Katiyah, who worked for 27 years as a domestic worker overseas. Armed with the new birth certificate, Adam will enrol in school next year.

*Sarah’s name has been changed to protect her anonymity