Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Launch of the Integrated Child and Family Welfare Services – A Dream Coming True

By Astrid Gonzaga Dionisio, Child Protection Specialist

Vice Mayor of Tulungagung (sixth from the right) with the Vice Chairperson of the Parliament (third from the left) and heads of agencies (from Left: Head of Women Empowerment, Child Protection and Family Planning; Head of Bappeda; Chairperson of East Java Provincial LPA; Head of Sub-Directorate for Neglected Children, Directorate of Child Welfare, the Ministry of Social Affairs; Director of Public Hospital; Astrid Dionisio – Child Protection Specialist and I Made Sutama, Child of Field Office from UNICEF; Head of Social Welfare Office; and Secretary of the local Government of Tulungagung. © UNICEF/2015/Astrid Dionisio

I have been to Tulungagung in East Java before. But this time, the excitement of my trip has been different. It was like a dream come true.

Developing a child protection system was once a big dream. Figuring it out was already complicated but not until recently when the district of Tulungagung, East Java, has finally launched the first model of an integrated child and family welfare services - the Unit Layanan Terpadu Perlindungan Sosial Anak Integratif (PSAI).  The road was not smooth, and the journey was long. Tulungagung is one of the districts in East Java  known to be one of the major sending areas for female migrant workers, commonly referred to as "buruh migran perempuan."

In 2011, UNICEF Indonesia embraced a new approach to child protection focusing on system building. From then on UNICEF together with the Ministry of Planning (Bappenas) and the Ministry of Social Affairs initiated processes toward developing a comprehensive child protection system locally known as SPA (Sistem Perlindungan Anak).

Perceived as a comprehensive and better-coordinated approach to address violence against children, exploitation, and neglect, SPA has become a "word of mouth" phenomenon for child protection practitioners, especially at local level. SPA was also supposed to address the underlying causes of those problems through a continuum of preventative and responsive services. However, since 2011 SPA had merely remained a concept without implementation.

The launch of the PSAI in Tulungagung has, therefore, a major milestone for the whole of Indonesia. It provides a concrete illustration of what was once a concept into reality. The launch also illustrates that it is possible to integrate both targeted services for vulnerable children and families as well as response services when children have been abused, neglected and exploited. It is an encouraging shift from the usual tradition approach that used to focus on response services rather than looking at vulnerabilities within families and the environment they live in which increase children’s risk to become a victim of violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation.

The most crucial thing now is to live up to the expectation, and provide sustainable and quality services that are accessible to the most vulnerable children and families.

As  explained by Bapak Mastur, Head of the district’s Women Empowerment and Child Protection Office, "the integrated unit engages and will continue to involve various stakeholders. Therefore, coordination is crucial to keep the momentum going" – something which the Vice Mayor of Tulungagung, Drs. H. Maryoto Birowo, also expressed in his remark.

Siska, a junior high school girl and beneficiary of the PKSA (Program Kesejahteraan Sosial Anak – a conditional cash assistance to vulnerable children administered by the Ministry of Social Affairs) welcomed the inauguration of the PSAI. "I'm happy that this unit has been established. Now I know where to go especially when I need help," she said. This was seconded by Fani – senior high school student and also a PKSA beneficiary – who added that he would inform his friends and community members regarding the unit and its available services.

On my way back to Jakarta, I could still imagine the smile of Siska and Fani and their optimism regarding the PSAI. I share their optimism as I see the commitment and engagement of the key actors in making PSAI possible. I am confident that such a comprehensive child protection system can be established in other districts across Indonesia as well, following the footsteps of Tulungagung.