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The Multi-level Impact of COVID 19—Introducing the Socio-ecological Model

The socio-ecological model is the foundational model for contextualizing the analysis of child protection risks, protective factors and response.
Hello, this is Hani Mansourian again with you. I’m here to speak to you about the socio-ecological model and its relevance to protection of children in the context of COVID-19. As you’re aware the socio-ecological model is a framework that helps us better understand the environment of a child and how that environment interacts with a child in terms of protection and potentially putting the child at risk. Each layer of the socio-ecological model plays a role in children’s protection and well being. For example, let us look at the issue of responsive caregiving which is an element in the family level of the socio-ecological model responsive caregiving is a crucial component of healthy development for children, particularly at young age.
This can become a risk factor for a child when a young child is deprived from it. For any reason. It could be a death of a caregiver It could be risky behavior on the part of parents like drug abuse or alcohol abuse or alchohal abuse or violence from, from caregivers and parents. At the same time responsive caregiving can be a protective element and a factor against many other adversities. A child who has responsive caregiving throughout childhood is much more likely to be resilient. Now and tomorrow in the face of adversity and difficulties. During the time of crises most of the layers of the socio-ecological model are negatively impacted.
This often leads to a multiplication of the impact of crises on children. And that is why many advocates claim that the biggest victims of crisis are often children It’s not that they only are affected directly They are affected because their protection is also impacted through the impact of the crisis on the other layers of the socio-ecological model. The COVID-19 pandemic and the control measures put in place to limit its spread are impacting every single layer of the socio-ecological model and the social ecology of the child. If you talk about the first layer which is children themselves.
They’re distressed not only because of the fear of the virus but also because they can’t see their peers their routines are disrupted their ability to play and interact with their environment is limited and much more. When he’s talking about the second layer, which is the families. Families are distressed. Not only because of the virus. But also because of the economic pressure lack of access to family and community support. Being crammed in a small space for prolonged periods uncertainty about their own future and the future of their children and much more. The third layer the communities are also distressed and fearful, Resources are often more limited than in usual times. Therefore competition is higher among community members.
Potentially, for very limited resources. They also are fearful of contracting the virus from others in the community. They’re also no longer in the position to play the protective role that they normally play because they don’t have the same access to children. So for example, if a child is being abused or being beaten up by a drunk father. A lot of the time, it would be the neighbor who would intervene because they’re right there. And they have access to the family. In this situation it’s much more difficult for a neighbor to step in and play that role. They won’t even potentially see what is happening. Fourth layer, which is the society level.
is also impacted because resources are increasingly limited and societies are dealing with competing priorities. Governments are in very difficult positions to prioritize what might what they might consider as the highest priority in this case a lot of the time is the health system which is correct, but at the same time, well-being of children is as important. We know that traditionally social service workforce for example is underfunded and is not necessarily deemed as an essential service. Poverty is on the rise and according to the International Labour Organization a projected 66 million children will be joining the ranks of children in extreme poverty. We already have about 386 million children in extreme poverty.
And with this projection there will be an additional 66 million. That is a very large number. Unfortunately we know, based on evidence that poverty is a key driving force for many negative child protection outcomes such as child labor child and family separation forced migration recruitment into armed forces and groups child marriage and much more. And of course, all of these are happening against the backdrop of cultural and social norms Social norms are also being impacted by COVID-19. In some societies, we see a positive change. For example norms around caring for others is emerging more strongly in other societies, the contrary is taking place and the culture of selfishness and being just for yourself is coming out more strongly.
Leaving a lot of vulnerable families in a dire situation. In the absence of immediate and bold action to counter these trends the lockdown measures can have devastating consequences for children. If it’s not possible to lift these restrictions then social protection measures should be put in place. If not, we’ll witness a growing gap between the privileged and the disadvantaged with millions of children not being able to live their full potentials. This is not only an economic disaster but also a threat to peace and prosperity in the decades to come. I also want to emphasize on protective factors. As you might have seen in the socio-ecological diagram that we have in the technical note on COVID-19 and Child Protection.
We have emphasized some protective factors. Many children and families have positive ways to deal with stress during COVID-19 there’s a huge potential to use the need to stay inside and close the family as a way of strengthening parent to child bond and relationship for example, many parents particularly fathers during normal times don’t have the time or the inclination sometimes to be with their children for extended amounts of time. While this new reality may require some getting used to. Parents should take advantage of it as an opportunity to enjoy the children’s company.
As a father, I can tell you that it is an extremely restorative experience of spending significant amounts of time with your child when you don’t have a choice otherwise. Another example of a protective measure at the family level is having daily routines routines. Routines are extremely important for children and adolescents. Schools naturally provide some of that structure and routine for children’s lives. Now that schools are closed, many children don’t have that. Families can work together. And of course, including children themselves to define those daily routines. At the community level community members can organize check-ins with vulnerable families. They can organize food distributions and other types of support for families in need.
At the societal level it’s important to ensure that social services continue to be available and accessible to children and families. In terms of social norms. Promoting norms that are protective is key. As I mentioned norms are being disrupted. Existing norms sometimes very positive norms such as visitation of family members, elderly or grandparents that cannot be done during COVID-19. We have to make sure that we replace those with positive protective norms such as being outside and connecting with nature. I strongly suggest that you consider using the socio-ecological model as an analytical framework to help you understand what elements at each level are putting children at risk and which elements are protective to children.
This will inform your programming it will help you address risk factors and strengthen protective factors at all levels. This means that if one level fails the others will support the child not to fall into the cycle of adversity. I would like to close by encouraging you to discuss this further with your peers through the discussion modalities that are available to you. Analyze it in your context. What in your context is helping children to stay safe and protected at each level of the social ecology of a child? What are the elements that are putting children at risk of each of those levels?
I hope that analysis will help you be more responsive to the needs of children and protect them from potential harm. Thank you very much.

Please listen to Hani Mansourian introducing the socio-ecological model as the foundational model for providing a context for analysis of child protection risks, protective factors and response through all stages of COVID-19. For more please consult: Technical Note: Protection of Children During the Coronavirus Pandemic (V.2), The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, 2020

Your Task

Thinking about the contexts that you live and work in, what is helping children to stay safe and protected? Use the comment box below to share your thoughts on this question with other learners and the course hosts.

What helps children stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic:

•At the individual level?

•At the family level?

•At the community level?

•At society level?

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Protecting Children during COVID-19 and other Infectious Disease Outbreaks

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