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Key Gaps and Concerns in Advocacy Efforts with Governments during IDOs

Review the case study “National Response to Adjust Child Protection Systems in COVID-19” to identify advocacy priorities.

At the end of March 2020, the Child Protection team in the UNICEF Europe and Central Asia Regional Office (ECARO) designed a brief online survey to take stock of what national authorities are doing to adjust national child protection systems and services in the wake of COVID-19.

The summary from the case study below presents the main gaps and concerns that were highlighted through the survey.

Read the summary below—which is adapted from the full report—to find out the main gaps and concerns that were highlighted in the survey.

Case Study

In April 2020, the UNICEF Europe and Central Asia Regional Office (ECARO) Child Protection team administered an online survey to 23 UNICEF offices in the region. All 23 UNICEF offices responded based on their ongoing work with national authorities and partners to reform and strengthen national and sub-national child protection systems and services.

Findings

National Coordination Mechanisms and Plans for Protection of Children

  • 17 countries put in place overall COVID-19 response plans. Of these, 11 had put in place a coordination mechanism to address child protection, social services and family support delivery.

  • 13 out of the 23 countries reported that their governments had put in place measures for places of detention (pre-trial and post-trial) and other forms of deprivation of liberty, including refugee and migrant reception centers.

Essential Protection Services and Social Work

  • Most countries deemed many social services “essential,” including: residential care facilities; family- and community-based alternative care services (mainly foster care); domestic violence shelters; and shelters and services designed to support children living or working on the street.

  • In most countries, social work departments continued to operate, often with reduced staffing and functions. In Croatia, for example, the social welfare system was reorganized to minimize the risk of infection within the workforce. This included providing remote support to families at low and moderate risk, with face-to-face support reserved only for high-risk families.

  • The vast majority of social work case management shifted to online, phone and other forms of remote communication to ensure children and families continue to receive follow-ups. Hotlines for domestic abuse and violence cases across the region are being strengthened, reactivated or established.

  • In several countries, boarding schools and special schools for children were closed, and children returned to their families. These institutions were closed at the same time as the rest of the mainstream schools for the period of the lockdown.

  • In almost all countries, day care services—including for children with disabilities—were suspended, leaving many children and families without an alternative.

Examples of key gaps and concerns identified for targeted government-level advocacy in the Europe and Central Asia Region

  • There seems to be little psychosocial support to the workforce by national governments.

  • Children with disabilities are a key concern, in particular, their over-representation in institutional care and the increased risks to their health and well-being during the COVID crisis.

  • Support is also needed for children who cannot access day care centers, which have been closed temporarily.

  • It is unclear, in many countries, how referrals and follow-ups from hotlines are taking place, as almost all social workers/case managers deliver remote support only.

  • While messaging on violence against children, abuse and positive discipline at home is in place at national level, it is unclear how messages are being disseminated and if parents are being supported to promote positive discipline measures.

  • The rapid return and reintegration of children from institutional care is a concern. Children have been sent home without proper preparation for reintegration and family reunification.

  • Inadequate Personal Protective Equipment for front-line workers, including social workers who need to respond to emergency and high-risk cases.

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Protecting Children during COVID-19 and other Infectious Disease Outbreaks

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