Gatekeeping and assessing the needs, circumstances and wishes of a child (Part 2)

In the last course step, we understood how the use of full and comprehensive assessments can provide evidence as to the needs, characteristics, circumstances and wishes of each child as well as ascertaining the situation of their family. This information is important in deciding the most appropriate support that should be offered to children and their families. We will now consider a few examples of how this “gatekeeping” mechanism is being applied in some countries.

Case studies

In the publication Making Decisions for the Better Care of Children: The role of gatekeeping in strengthening family-based care and reforming alternative care systems, examples of gatekeeping mechanisms have been provided. This includes for example, protocols in Bulgaria that oblige health staff in maternity hospitals to report any child they consider to be at risk of abandonment to the social work service. In Indonesia, national standards require staff of residential facilities to report a placement or referral of a child to a child-care institution to the child protection system. In Brazil and Moldova there is a multi-sector approach to identifying the circumstances of a child and making decisions about how to best support their care.

In Rwanda, a programme supported, by the non-governmental organisation Hope and Homes for Children, has led to some members of the community being trained to recognise signs that might signify a risk of separation of children from their family and undertake initial assessments. If the situation of a child and their family is referred to the attention of the local authorities, a case management team, consisting of a social worker and psychologist, then conduct a comprehensive assessment.

The aim of the assessment is to create a holistic picture of the child’s situation, by covering both positive and challenging aspects according to the following five core areas:

  1. Living conditions: including issues of adequate and secure housing; house condition; access to electricity and running water; condition of household goods; ability to pay for any rent, household bills, food, clothing, and other household supplies;
  2. Health: including health concerns; access to primary health-care services and specialized medical services; access to family planning and counselling; use of medical insurance and ability to purchase medicines;
  3. Education: including children’s access to, and attendance at, school; parents’ education and interest in their children’s education; access to education and ability to pay school fees, and for school materials and transport to school; access and involvement in extracurricular activities;
  4. Family and social relationships: including intra-familial relations and conflict; provision of care and support to a child; extended family and other social networks; interaction with other community members; and
  5. Household economy: including receipt of any state benefits; ability to manage household finances; employment status, employment skills and debts.

Remember, intrinsic to the assessment and decision-making process should be the participation of children and young people.

Support Plans

In the Hope and Homes supported programme, the social worker conducts several visits to the place the child lives to consult with the child, his or her family, and with others in the community, for example, local teachers and health workers. Through these consultations, the case management team creates an individual Support Plan.

The Support Plan contains specific goals, milestones and, the roles and responsibilities of those involved. It might include targeted as well as universal support, and takes a broad social protection perspective on family strengthening, addressing any one or all of the five core areas analysed in the assessment. Importantly, the Support Plan is created in partnership with all those consulted, to help ensure they will be ready and willing to provide future support as required. In particular, the participation of the child is encouraged, depending on their maturity and capacity, and particular emphasis is placed on their concerns and preferences.

Community volunteers are also involved in on-going support of children and families identified at risk of separation. In addition to the case management team, these trained local volunteers are key in ensuring follow up and monitoring. Such volunteers become resource people for their communities and contribute to increasing the resilience and capability to adequately deal with child protection and care issues.

For further information on this case study and other details of gatekeeping please refer to the publication Making Decisions for the Better Care of Children.

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This article is from the free online course:

Getting Care Right for All Children: Implementing the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children

University of Strathclyde