FAQ - Community Based Services
1. What are Community Based Services (CBS)?
Community-Based Services are basic educational, social and healthcare services, which can be managed at a local level. They involve using local knowledge of communities to identify potentialsocial problems early and take measures to solve them, rather than react to them afterwards once the damage is done.
2. What sort of social problems?
CBS are intended to help people cope with challenging situations, vulnerabilities or addictions. This could mean making sure a young pregnant woman attends the doctor’s appointments to which she is entitled, spends time close to her baby in the maternity ward and learns about the benefits of breastfeeding, all of which will make it far less likely that she will abandon her child. Or it could mean helping a family to claim the benefits they are entitled to so they feel they can afford to keep their children in school rather than send them out to work.
3. How do CBS work?
They involve identifying, highlighting, diagnosing and assessing the social needs of an individual, family or group with a view to taking preventive actions and measures. Once a solution is found and implemented, the family or individuals will continue to be monitored. Counselling, guidance, information, mediation, etc also play a part.The services are delivered at community level by professionals from different fields (social workers, community nurses, health mediators, doctors and nurses, school mediators, teachers, police officers, priests). Support also comes from local elected officials and business people.
4. What is their goal?
The goal of CBS is to keep children with their parents or family and avert abuse, neglect and/or exploitation. They are about keeping children in the family and community rather than in the State Protection System.Also, more widely, they are about promoting social inclusion and enhancing quality of life.
5. What are the advantages?
The main advantages are that the services are conceived and delivered close to the beneficiaries and their communities, involving the people who know best the situation of the families concerned. This is the practice throughout the European Union. CBS engage the community, who are uniquely able to identify and handle the problems. They provide fast and straightforward solutions, and they are also low-cost, as it is cheaper to predict and forestall an imminent problem than deal with its consequences after it has occurred. It is also far better for children’s wellbeing if problems are spotted and solved early.
6. And how about the disadvantages?
In rural areas, where much poverty and therefore social problems are concentrated, the professionals are generally less experienced and qualified, and working conditions are usually tougher. Also, there is a serious shortage of skilled staff in rural areas due to unattractive working conditions, tight budgets and low wages.Local authorities are more comfortable with granting financial support than with delivering counselling, guidance, information and mediation services. Some problems require specialised assistance, which is beyond the capacity of CBS, and falls under the responsibility of county agencies.
7. How many children are in care in Romania?
Though it has fallen in recent years, Romania continues to haveone of the highest rates of children in care in Europe, 1,737 per 100,000 children.Almost 70,000 are separated from their families.
8. What is the Government’s position on CBS?
The Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Protection has recognised the importance of CBS and that prevention and basic social services may be cheaper than specialised care.
9. How much money does UNICEF need for CBS?
Nearly USD 4 million to set up and run 720 schemes. Costs will ultimately fall as less training and fewer supplies will be required. Local authorities must commit to take over the costs from UNICEF after three months of development. On the UNICEF side, the direct expenditure for developing – not maintaining – CBS for an estimated 20,000 children exceeds US$450,000, so the cost per child is initially around US$ 23.
10. How will CBS help these children?
They will remain with their families, and risk situations will be identified and averted, preventing unnecessary suffering.They will grow up in friendlier environments as community members become more sensitive to child issues and more aware of child rights.
Their communities will receive the funds they need because prevention is cost-effective.
11. How will the project be scaled up?
Through our own fundraising efforts and by mobilising and leveraging other resources. UNICEF will help local governments access EU structural funds and also engage other stakeholders, including civil society.
12. Can you give some more examples of what CBS means?
a. Pre- and post-natal care, mainly for young mothers
Last year alone, over 26,000 births were to teenage mothers, and the figure is rising every year. The number of mothers who give birth with no previous medical examination is dropping, but continues to be unacceptably high, at almost 40,000.
b. Protection of children left home alone
In 2007, an estimated 126,000 children were left home alone after their parents went abroad to work, though the official figures are much lower due to the lack of proper community-level reporting. Through CBS a social worker is involved with the parents and helps them through the necessary formalities to ensure the children left behind are properly cared for. He or she also informs the family of the benefits available if they take their children with them.
c. Support for victims of domestic violence
Domestic violence is complex and intervention is difficult because of the fuzzy boundaries between private life and society. Over 11,200 incidents of child abuse were reported last year. Every citizen has the moral obligation to report any form of violence on children. Every institution (kindergarten, school, dispensary, hospital, etc.) has the legal obligation to report any form of violence on children. However, this doesn’t happen in practice. CBS identifies at risk families, talks to the victim and tells the police. Support groups in the community have helped victims get through their ordeal. Before taking a child into care, CBS try to mitigate at community level the risks of a child falling victim to violence.
d. Provision of emergency financial assistance
CBS are an essential element for the evaluation of families in difficulty. The social worker makes enquiries keeping in mind all the benefits that the family is entitled to. This way, emergency financial aid is supplied in an effective and documented manner. More than 23,000 emergency financial grants worth an average of USD 174 (520 RON) went to families in need last year (2010). Most of them came from local budgets.
13. What methods are used to reduce the number of children at risk?
Removing a child from his or her family is an extremely complex process. The better known the parents’ situation is – especially the mother’s – the more efficient the intervention.
More than 1,400 children were abandoned in Romanian maternity wards last year. Only one third of them were returned to their families, while the others were placed in care. Field experience shows that a mother who has been prepared before childbirth will find it harder to abandon her child. The same applies to a mother who goes home and finds a community-based service that can help her.
The methods are:
a. Social worker intervention: the professional visits local homes, identifies problem situations (that may lead to children being separated from family), assesses individual/family/group needs in the community, shares and supplies additional information to other professionals or community leaders and suggests solutions. In many cases, the social worker is in charge of implementing the solution. A support group or a parenting class can be very successful at community level.
b. The community leaders and/or the local council analyses the social worker’s report and decides on specific solutions for each problem. These solutions are often relatively simple and low-cost, to be applied either through social worker intervention or community participation. These solutions do not necessarily require specialised intervention and may be implemented locally.
14. Does UNICEF have any prior experience of CBS in Romania?
Yes, CBS was piloted in 2008/2009 in 20 communes in 8 different counties. Results achieved included the following:
- 65% of unregistered children received identification papers and the other 35% were in the course of being processed by the end of 2009.
- All parents and children without identification documents were registered with a family doctor and were able to access social benefits.
- 50 teenage mothers, one as young as 12 and two of 13 years old, received counselling on childcare and family planning.
- Hundreds of parents attended parenting classes which are expected to have positive benefits for their children in the both the short and long term.
- At least 85% of infants and children at risk of abandonment were united or integrated into their natural family (55%) or a foster family.
- Out-of-school children identified and follow up done with their families.
15. How can UNICEF mobilise and/or leverage funds for CBS in these times of austerity? How can CBS be expanded and sustained in the long term?
In part, UNICEF will draw on its own fundraising efforts. But leveraging other resources, especially from the EU structural funds would provide the serious money to expand and consolidate CBS in the long term. In this regard, UNICEF is providing expertise to local authorities to help them apply for and obtain structural funding to cover the necessary costs involved. Simultaneously, UNICEF is working with the Government and local authorities on costing standards which will have the effect of making CBS affordable and reduce costs overall in the child protection system. The savings thus realized can be used to expand and sustain the CBS approach in the long term.