UNICEF strengthens child protection systems to safeguard children and their families with a focus on access to justice, social services and protection from violence.
Every child has the right to protection. In Azerbaijan, UNICEF works to strengthen national child protection systems, particularly in the areas of integrated social services, access to justice and monitoring of children`s rights.
National child protection systems include organizations vital to social welfare, education and health care, as well as law-enforcement agencies and organizations responding to children at risk. A strong child protection system addresses the many inter-connected challenges that can often confront children and their families.
Monitoring of Children`s Rights
The most effective responses to social challenges are built on solid knowledge and evidence. Too often, children are left vulnerable and at risk because the problems they face are not adequately monitored or assessed. When issues are invisible or not fully understood, meaningful policies, services and resources cannot be developed or allocated to target the challenges – and those children risk becoming further marginalized.
UNICEF supports the generation of data, knowledge and analysis of child-focused information in Azerbaijan to support more equitable policy formulation and programming and budgeting, is supporting the development of a national knowledge database for measuring and monitoring multidimensional child deprivations. This work includes both strengthening technical capacity for data collection and analysis and the production of research and studies on specific children’s issues on behalf of the Government.
Access to Juvenile Justice
When a child comes from an at-risk family, the likelihood of that child coming into conflict with the law can increase.
Azerbaijan has committed itself to ensuring that its juvenile justice system respects the rights of children in line with international standards and is focusing increasingly on promoting non-custodial, rehabilitative responses to children who commit offences. This reflects an understanding that rehabilitation and reintegration increase the chances of a child making a constructive contribution to society, whereas detention can often result in a child facing increased poverty, social exclusion and re-engagement in criminal behaviours.
UNICEF believes that social services and juvenile justice should work hand-in-hand, focusing not only on responses, but integrated preventative measures that address vulnerabilities leading to delinquency.
Our work to strengthen the juvenile justice system in Azerbaijan and provide opportunities for children who come into contact with the law includes:
- Piloting of legal aid and legal representation services for vulnerable families
- Training of judges, lawyers, prosecutors and law enforcement personnel
- Creation of specialized youth criminal justice teams across the country
- Establishment of a child-friendly court room
- Support to probation services
- Connecting social workers with children in the justice system
Breaking the potential cycle of deprivation often experienced by generations of vulnerable families requires an informed understanding of the causes of threats to children. These may include violence, exploitation, abuse, neglect and unnecessary separation from their family. Based on this understanding comes the design and delivery of a relevant package of services that mitigates or addresses those threats.
Identifying the most deprived children and the drivers of their vulnerability lies at the heart of UNICEF’s work with the Government of Azerbaijan in implementing a well-coordinated, multi-sectoral response. This effort includes:
- Assessment of vulnerability and referrals
- Social work case management for children and families
- Social services for children with developmental delays and disabilities
- Social services for children in contact and conflict with the law
- Outreach services
Well-designed, integrated social services can provide a level of protection for families at risk of, or who are experiencing, vulnerabilities related to poverty, disadvantage and social exclusion. When combined with targeted social assistance payments, social services support can foster greater self-reliance and opportunity for vulnerable families, mitigate harm to children and act as a vital safety net for families in crisis.
For social service programmes to be most effective, strong referral systems and case management are essential – to identify risks and challenges to children, develop an appropriate response, and connect children and families when necessary to other services and specialist care and support, while monitoring individual cases to ensure the most effective package of assistance is in place.
Since its independence, Azerbaijan has taken great strides in developing social services, and comprehensive legal frameworks and existing social protection schemes are already anchored in its national legislation. But specific constraints to developing a comprehensive social services programme in Azerbaijan have included:
- A lack of awareness and limited knowledge about existing services and entitlements among communities.
- A fear of discrimination and stigma that often keeps families from accessing services.
- Insufficient availability of social services, and outdated standards, particularly at the community level.
The central figure of the social worker has not been adopted into Azerbaijan society to the extent needed. Social workers are a key facet to the social services system. With specialist skills, they are able to reach out to vulnerable families and individuals, identifying and responding to needs, and assuring the quality of the services being provided.