2003 Egypt: Assessment Report on the Children at Risk Community Monitoring Mechanism
Author: Azer, A.; Ghobashi, M.; Iskandar, L.; Naggar, N.; Rifaat, N.; Shaker, B.; Community and Institutional Development Inc. (CID)
The project of monitoring child protection began in 1999 in the Red Crescent Society in the Al Nahda neighborhood and in the Integrated Care Society in Ein Helwan neighborhood, under the auspices of UNICEF. In 2000, a similar project was launched with the Red Crescent in West Helwan, with the aim of protecting girls in the area. In 2001, a child protection project was implemented in Alexandria through three NGOs, namely Sidi Aly Al-Samak, Maritime Scouts Association and Sidi Gaber Association, and in partnership with the head of the local city council. Each NGO developed its own set of tools based on their capabilities and experience. Implementation reflected the diversity and adaptability of each context.
Purpose / Objective
In order to find out more about the nature of these projects and their achievements, an Egyptian firm, Community and Institutional Development (CID), was contracted by UNICEF to evaluate the projects. The evaluation is to be considered preliminary in view of the fact that the projects are still in the early stages of implementation.
The aims of this assessment are to:
- Assess and document the children-at-risk projects and to upgrade the system as a step towards the possible replication of the project in other areas
- Develop a manual to be used by those in the child protection fields
Two surveys were designed by the project consultants to collect data from the project leaders and the social workers. Four focus groups were held, one each for the leaders in Cairo and Alexandria, and one each for the social workers in Cairo and Alexandria to obtain more details, clarifications, and views on issues that were elicited in the surveys. The focus groups were organized and moderated successfully, and were recorded separately on cassette tape and in writing, for later analysis. A number of complex cases (multiple problem cases) were chosen from each organization in order to analyze the extent to which intervention measures had dealt with the problem and solved the problem.
A workshop brought representatives from the implementing NGOs to collaboratively re-design tools, processes and re-examine concepts of risk. It was held at the UNICEF premises. CID consultants and team members moderated and managed the event.
Key Findings and Conclusions
This assessment has helped us take a closer look at the various ways and means by which children at risk at large can be identified, reached and assisted. Implementing NGOs have explored the rich world of community intervention in ways that have allowed us to critically assess the predominant paradigm on monitoring at-risk children and propose actions applicable to categories of working children, street children, abused children. For instance, one critical mechanism that has yielded success is networking with a variety of community development associations (CDAs) that specialize in specific child protection areas. This facilitates referral and specialized interventions. Thus, NGOs using the monitoring mechanism need not intervene on behalf of drug-addicted children, or street children, but they do need to have a working relationship with specialized CDAs that work in those areas.
Due diligence in the identification stage is important for the efficient identification of cases. There are multiple sources of identification of cases such as schools, homes, social services and the NGOs themselves.
Social workers' performance during the case study depends on their work load and the time they allocate to this program. Monitoring the intervention plan is an important step that allows for additions to the plan or its replacement.
Obstacles faced are sometimes the result of ineffective policies, such as problems related to the educational process.
Red Crescent Society Project in Al-Nahda
Some difficulties were experienced during the case studies, including a heavy work burden on the social workers who are involved in other Red Crescent projects as well as the lack of accuracy of information given by certain families.
The project team recommends raising the awareness of the local community of the goals of the project and strengthening the relationship with the head of the local city council and the local government directorates, and involving them in the activities of the organization.
Red Crescent Society Project in West Helwan
A preference for undertaking case studies in the home of the child was expressed as it allowed for better investigation into the family's economic situation.
Some of the young women identified as being at risk by the project received training through Red Crescent training programs in babysitting, elderly-sitting, computer literacy and electronics in an attempt to integrate them into the labor market. The support of the local community was sought and relationships were established with doctors, businessmen and factories.
Children at Risk Project in Alexandria
Difficulties encountered during the case studies included the lack of accurate information being given by parents as well as their lack of cooperation with the NGOs.
The project experienced some difficulties in implementing the intervention plan, such as obstacles facing completion of medical check-ups; and barriers to enrolling school drop outs back in to the school system. The project depends on community efforts and free services from some doctors and pharmacists.
Integrated Care Society Project in Ein Helwan
Social workers experienced some difficulties during intervention, such as the lack of cooperation of some families in dealing with the NGO.
To enhance and improve the project, the project team suggested organizing training workshops for families and social workers around the project and its implementation process.
Before extending the program to other areas, a community profile and needs assessment needs to be conducted as a baseline for efficient implementation.
Consultative committees are an important component of the program; they reduce obstacles that contribute to practical solutions to the problems.
Putting in place a mechanism to protect children should be undertaken in cooperation with community stakeholders and those affected by the problems (a communication network needs to be established).
Capitalizing on, and investing in, relations with government institutions and other organizations leads to a more timely and effective provision of solutions to some of the problems.
Attempting to reform governmental policies is an outcome of community-based implementation.
Building on existing NGOs initiatives, close collaboration with local authorities and businesses has contributed to the improvement of the social environment of at-risk children by offering opportunities for basic education, micro-enterprise and practical training for children and youth.
There seems to be room for networking efforts in the next phase that would lead to advocacy at the policy level. This would more clearly identify factors involved in causing child deprivation -- in fact, deprivation of basic child rights. This assessment study has clearly established the triangular relationship between poverty, deprivation of education, and various forms of child vulnerability.
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