Raising awareness about the importance of family-based care at a community level, and identifying the vulnerabilities and challenges that lead to family separation and the institutionalisation of children are key to keeping families together.
The Cambodian Children's Trust (CCT) has led community consultations in 11 villages, working with local people to look at what is working well in facilitating resilience, what the pressures are that cause family separation and what should be done to ease these problems to ensure that all children grow up with the family support they need to thrive.
With advisory support from Children’s Future International, CCT completed these consultations in March using the Signs of Safety framework. Signs of Safety is a participatory, strengths-based approach to child protection that directly involves children, families and communities in addressing the needs of the most vulnerable children. Being the initial phase of work with funding through the Family Care First Cambodia initiative, CCT has been applying the pilot, learn, grow philosophy to develop the process along the way, resulting in an effective and productive forum.
All consultations followed a Signs of Safety approach. The basic process was pre-brief → consultation→ debrief. Actual intervention consultations followed the Signs of Safety three columns framework working on a ‘what is working well’, ‘what is not working well’ and ‘what needs to happen’ approach. Scripted questions and amplifying questions formed the basis of this work. This pattern was used throughout to ensure that effectiveness, consistency and learning were incorporated into the next consultation.
A common challenge that people reported was parents migrating to find work in Thailand or other places that were far from their village. This means parents felt compelled to leave their children with grandparents or relatives.
Along with establishing networks of individuals at a local level, such as village chiefs and school teachers, to refer vulnerable children and families to social workers, CCT has recruited 22 Village Based Social Workers (VBSW); two for each village, providing training based on Social Services Cambodia curriculum.
CCT Senior Social Worker, Lyly, explained the VBSW were trained in a range of social work skills including counselling and child protection. Their role is to identify families at risk of family separation, intervene where possible and refer complex cases to senior social workers at the commune level.
"So far these village networks have referred 64 families to us. Using criteria based on risk of family separation, such as whether parents are planning on migrating, we have narrowed down these referrals to 16 of the most high-risk cases. We are in the process of assessments and creating case plans," Lyly said.
By establishing networks at the village level, problems can be identified early on, and families struggling from the pressures of poverty, or other issues, and at risk of family separation can be given support and advice. Support will be provided via social work services as well as parenting skills workshops and alcohol support groups. In certain cases, short term material interventions to prevent family separation may be needed, like providing rice, a bicycle or school uniforms.