UNICEF promotes quality social work in Viet Nam

Although she was born physically healthy, she appeared to be more “immature” than her peers in development.

Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong
UNICEF promotes quality social work in Viet Nam
UNICEF Viet Nam\Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong
27 April 2016

Little Pham Ngoc Lan[*] jumped on and off the plastic chairs while picking up the toy animals in between the jumps. She then moved to play with the gym ball and the colorful plastic circles. Although she seemed to be tired, she enjoyed the games very much. This was not a normal children’s playground. She was in the Psychotherapy Ward for Children with Mental Disorder and those toys and games were parts of the therapy.

Lan lives with her family in Quang Ninh - a Northern Province of Viet Nam. Although she was born physically healthy, she appeared to be more “immature” than her peers in development. She could only speak a few words. She was slow to master simple things like dressing, tooth brushing, hand washing and feeding herself. She hardly responded to any word and gesture of anyone, including her parents.

Lan started the treatment here few months ago. After the screening examination, the staff of the centre designed a specific therapeutic treatment plan for her. She came to the Centre twice a week to participate in the therapeutic treatment. Her parents were also guided how to work with her at home. “She has improved a lot. She responds better to us and be able to talk in longer sentences”, said her mother.

Lan is among the 200 children with mental disorder who have been receiving support and treatment from this Psychotherapy Ward. The service is piloting in the Social Work Service Centre (SWSC) of Quang Ninh province. Since its establishment in 2011, besides providing psychological treatment to children with mental disorder, the SWSC has provided support to thousands of vulnerable people including children victims of abuse, abandonment, trafficking, serious neglect and those infected/affected with HIV/AIDS. “UNICEF has been instrumental in the establishment of this centre, providing advocacy and technical support for the visioning and development of the centre from the beginning” said Mr. Dang Huu Binh, Director of Quang Ninh Provincial SWSC.

Along with rapid economic development, Viet Nam is increasingly confronted with complex challenges such as a high number of reported cases of child violence, exploitation, neglect, disability, drug abuse and juvenile in conflict with the law. In addressing these issues, the government of Viet Nam and UNICEF are prioritizing the development the professional social work. The country plans to have at least one social work service centre in every of 713 districts and towns by 2020.

With 19 Social Work Service Centres currently operating in Quang Ninh, the province is recognized as having the largest number of Social Work Service Centres in Viet Nam. However, the lack of trained social workers and specific technical guidelines on service delivery have constrained the quality of service delivery as well as the replication of the services throughout the province. “We need to standardize our services and procedures of service delivery as well as develop a strong monitoring and evaluation system. We also need to have an effective coordinating mechanism among the concerned sectors such as police, health, justice, education, mass organizations, especially in dealing with emergency cases. We rely on UNICEF for your continued advocacy and technical support in those issues”, said Mr. Binh.

UNICEF has been at the forefront providing strong advocacy and technical support to the government in the development of social work profession. In the recent visit to Quang Ninh, Mr. Youssouf Abdel-Jelil, UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam expressed his appreciation to Quang Ninh’s strong efforts and good investment in social work. “As a long-standing partner of Viet Nam in the area of child protection, we are committed to partnering with Quang Ninh Province to develop innovative and strategic models to improve availability and access of children, family and people to services. We will continue to provide technical assistance and expertise in developing guidelines and service standards for the social work services. With the knowledge and experience from the field and around the globe, we will continue to advocate with the government to strengthen the legal framework on social work and strengthen the human workforce of social workers so that all children in need in Viet Nam can have access to the quality social work services”, said Mr. Abdel-Jelil.

[*] Name has been changed to protect identity of the child