Monday, 6 November 2017

Reaching Adam

By Cory Rogers, Communication Officer

Ibu Ana with Adam at his home outside Tulungagung © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

Tulungagung: “You can tell where they worked by the design of the house,” says Ibu Ana as we rumble past large, multi-roofed homes on the way to Ibu Katiyah’s place. 

Two years ago Ibu Katiyah returned to this corner of East Java with her three-year-old son Adam – 27 years after first departing. Ibu Ana, a government welfare worker, met them while verifying welfare rolls, and the two became fast friends.

“Migrant labourers like to build big houses here like the ones they work in overseas,” Ibu Ana adds as we zig and zag, dodging chickens, potholes and the occasional shingle.

“But Ibu Katiyah didn’t have enough money to build one. She lives in a dirt-floor home up the road.” 

Ibu Katiyah is one of millions of Indonesians who’ve departed for cities like Singapore, Hong Kong and Riyadh for the chance to earn wages many times local salaries; as the home-building spree suggests, the leap of faith can pay dividends.

But the decision also comes at a cost – not only for the up to 80 per cent of Indonesia's domestic workers who endure "isolation, underpayment, long working hours, forced labor, human trafficking, and violence" -- but for their children, too.* 

“Growing up with absent parents or in circumstances where social services are hard to reach can increase a child’s risk of dropping out of school, and leave them more vulnerable to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation,” says Astrid Dionisio, UNICEF Indonesia Child Protection Specialist. 

“The challenge for Government is to create a system that is pro-active and responsive to the needs of all children, especially the most vulnerable,” she adds.  

With nearly a dozen sub-agencies coordinating district-level education, health and wellbeing needs for 87 million children nationwide, however, there can be confusion over how to provide timely, comprehensive care. In partnership with the Ministry of Social Affairs, UNICEF is committed to sharpening the system with a new pilot on integrated social services for children.

The project, called the Program Kesejahteran Sosial Anak – Integratif (PKSAI) or integrated child welfare services, launched in five districts in 2016. 

“The PKSAI brings service providers under the coordination of the Ministry of Social Affairs under one tent for more efficient service provision and case management,” Dionisio explains. 

Across the pilots, the number of children reached doubled in 2016 – spurring the Government to expand the pilot to 100 districts next year.**

“It [the PSKSAI] is a physical space, an office. With the new referral system in place, a holistic range of assistance can be provided for children who have, for example, come into conflict with the law, or endured some kind abuse, neglect or exploitation,” Dionisio adds.

Or, as in Ibu Katiyah’s case, when a child simply lacks a birth certificate.

Reaching every child

Outside Ibu Katiyah’s home, a boulder-flecked mountain towers over farmland that stretches for miles down to her cousin’s three-storey house -- a home her remittances helped build years ago.

Ibu Ana walks up to Ibu Katiyah’s house at the top of the hill © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

“I had to take care of my family members, especially my sick parents,” Katiyah says, explaining why she had not saved enough money to build her own family such a home.

Her son Adam, now 5, was born in Malaysia, the product of a customary marriage to an Indonesian man she met while working. Lacking residency papers, however, Katiyah never legalized the marriage. And when the family returned to Indonesia by boat in 2015, they did not register Adam’s birth. 

A birth certificate is Indonesia’s foundational identity document, without which access to education, welfare, healthcare and other citizenship rights can be denied. Across Indonesia, nearly 1 in 3 children still lack the pivotal document.

Reaching children like Adam, who live far from government centres in remote rural enclaves, rests on improving coordination with field workers like Ibu Ana. Indeed, Ibu Ana says she often finds such children lacking birth certificates, but a lack of resources makes it impossible to directly assist each and every one.

“One PHK [government welfare] facilitator handles between 150 and 200 families, so we have a lot of responsibility,” she says. “When I identify a child in need of assistance, now I can just call the PKSAI (the integrated child welfare services in Tulungagung).” 

In most cases, within 24 hours, social workers from the centre arrive to assess the child’s situation.

Ibu Rini of the Tulungagung Civil Registration Office notes similar benefits. “The truth is we don’t have the resources to register children in remote villages who still haven’t been reached,” she says. “So for us the PKSAI system has been a significant help.”

Since 2015, the year the PKSAI opened, the number of unregistered children has been halved. Adam received his in September of this year.

In addition to birth registration, the PKSAI facilitates mediation for children in conflict with the law, psycho-social support for those who have experienced trauma, and interventions designed to protect children from violence --  “the whole range of social services needed to ensure children are developing safe and healthy,” says UNICEF’s Dionisio.

There’s still much to do to improve performance, however: Case management data has yet to be integrated among service providers, for example, and much of the inter-agency coordination occurs in an ad-hoc fashion. 

But Adam’s story illustrates how government efforts to protect children are being synchronized in this migrant labour hotspot, where there is a high need for care: With his birth certificate in hand, Adam will be able to enrol in primary school on time.

“After I had my son, I knew I wanted to raise him in the ‘motherland’,” Katiyah says in English. She speaks with a slight British lilt from her years in Singapore, and says she hopes he’ll learn English at school, too.

“I miss the people I worked for sometimes, because they were good to me,” she says as dusk settles and the air begins to chill.

“But this is Indonesia. This is home sweet home.”

 Ibu Katiyah and her son Adam pose with his newly acquired birth certificate © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

*According to the ILO, as cited in The Diplomat

**The other four districts are Gowa and Makassar in South Sulawesi Province and Klaten and Surakarta in Central Java Province