Using the Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action to Build Local Capacity.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes as a result of the fighting between armed groups and government forces in Eastern Ukraine that broke out in April 2014. The conflict has affected over 3.7 million, of which 3.1 million are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance. Over half are children. When the humanitarian crisis was deemed beyond the scope of any one agency’s mandate, the cluster approach was activated.
I’m an experienced psychologist, and I wouldn’t say I saw very different issues among children affected by the conflict, (…) Rather, the difference is in the extent and depth of the trauma. It’s no exaggeration to say that there are now some areas of the Ukraine where the entire population is in need of psychosocial support. And that changes the way we work – from providing interventions at the individual and family levels, to considering the needs of the whole community.
Inessa Klochko, Head of Psychological Services at the Fund for Professional Development (previously Station Kharkhiv).
Building Local Capacity
The CPMS roll out began with a training needs assessment in August 2015, (…) With the large influx of IDPs, members of the child protection sub-Cluster had a real hunger for training. Faced with unprecedented need, it was clear that capacity building efforts were needed to adequately respond to children’s need for psychosocial support and protection.
Annette Lyth, Coordinator, Child Protection sub-Cluster, Ukraine.
The Ukraine Child Protection sub-Cluster consists of 20 organizations based in 12 localities: primarily small and local partners. The Coordinator surveyed members to see who could organize trainings and pooled scant available resources.
Adapting the most relevant standards to the local context
The CPMS provide generic, global guidance on child protection through all phases of humanitarian action. Sub-Cluster members know the local situation well. We work with girls and boys on a daily basis and we are familiar with the issues they face. We needed to focus on those Standards most relevant in our context, and adapt them to the local situation.
Anna Chernova, Director, Smile of a Child.
The first step was to organize a contextualization workshop in Kiev. All interested child protection organizations we invited, as well as the government Ministry of Social Policy and the Ombudsman’s office. The global CPMS Task Force funded the event and a local NGO provided the training room.
Training local trainers for maximum impact
The next step was to organize a “Training of Trainers” workshop. 22 participants from organizations committing to go on and train others were invited. A plan for the rollout of the Frontline Responder Training was drawn up, and a series of trainings began in December 2015.
I am so impressed with the local child protection organizations here in the Ukraine. After the contextualization and Training of Trainers workshops in Kiev, they just took it and ran with it. We estimate that 300 frontline workers have been trained on the CPMS since December 2015, but the number is likely to be significantly higher. Local organizations don’t always remember to tell us when they’re training colleagues and partners on the CPMS.
The situation of the civilian population in the Non-Government Controlled Areas is a matter of particular concern. Freedom of movement and humanitarian access is limited. Local child protection actors are active.
We invited participants from two organizations based in the area along the contact line to participate in the Training of Trainers. One got expelled. The other returned and trained their colleagues on the CPMS.
Limited capacity to monitor rollout and gather feedback
Trainers were recommended by local organizations. From what I see and hear, all are excellent and highly experienced. We assembled a small working group with dedicated resources to support trainers. After the Training of Trainers in Kiev, I developed a training package based on my own previous experience. The trainers almost completely ignored it! On reflection, that was perhaps a good thing: experienced trainers with detailed knowledge of the local context used their own tried and tested techniques. Feedback affirms that all trainings have been very dynamic and there is certainly a strong sense of local ownership of the rollout process. We set up a Google drive, where trainers were asked to upload and share materials developed. It has only been partially effective. Facebook is our primary means of communication. Everyone uses social media. We try to systematically gather feedback from trainings. Given our limited capacity and the proliferation of trainings, we sometimes struggle to monitor effectively. All the feedback I’ve seen has been overwhelmingly positive, but trainers often forget to hand out feedback forms.
The CPMS help us to apply what we know about keeping children safe from harm to the chaos of an emergency situation. The CPMS provide a roadmap – a way to structure existing knowledge and good practice, together with indicators to measure the effectiveness of our programmes and a common framework shared with other national and international child protection actors.
Frontline Workers’ Perspectives
I attended the Training of Trainers in December 2015. It was my first experience of child protection in a humanitarian context. I appreciated the systematic presentation of the standards, and especially the use of indicators. Standard 1 on Coordination was particularly interesting for me: how to manage and structure a child protection response in the chaos of an emergency.
Anna Chernova, Director, Smile of a Child.
Smile of a Child social workers and volunteers provide support, supervision, educational and recreational activities for IDP children. Early observations and assessments often indicate a high prevalence of psychosomatic symptoms: stuttering, generalized anxiety, changes in eating and sleeping habits and bed-wetting. Newly arrived children from the militarized areas are frequently withdrawn, and social workers report difficulty in engaging them in play and social interaction.
Training Local Staff with Adapted Materials
Since the Training of Trainers, I have trained a total of 50 people. First, I led an internal training on the CPMS for Smile of the Child’s staff and volunteers. Then I led training in Donetsk for 20 representatives from other local NGOs. The intention was that each of them would go on to train their colleagues. I provided a consultation on the CPMS and a workshop where we analyzed ongoing programming to see whether and how it required modification into to meet the CPMS. For Smile of the Child, for example, we reviewed our provision of Child Friendly Spaces in light of Standard 17. Previously, we had allowed parents and carers to leave children under age 3 in our care. Since the CPMS training, we have revised this practice.
Participants in the ToT were given excellent support materials that they were able to edit ourselves, including a PPT presentation on the CPMS in Russian, the unofficial Russian translation of the CPMS and the contextualized standards.
I attended the frontline responders’ training in Kharkhiv. I’m an experienced psychologist, but the training was my first introduction to child protection in humanitarian action. Our training was interesting because both state social workers and NGOs were present. It was an opportunity to build bridges and share good practice. The training had a huge influence on levels of cooperation between civil society and state representatives. Participants came from various sectors: state social services, NGOs, legal advisors and psychologists.
Inessa Klochko, Head of Psychological Services at the Fund for Professional Development, previously Station Kharkhiv.
Need for Improved Case Management and Interagency Coordination
We spent some time focusing on CPMS 15, Case Management. In Kharkhiv, there are quite a lot of support services available for children and families in need. But we often fail to work in a multiagency way: we’re really lacking systems for effective coordination and communication between all the different actors working with children.
Participants at the training actually requested a follow-up training specifically on Case Management in the Ukrainian context.
We discussed referral pathways, and how to ensure we are reaching the most marginalized children. We commonly rely on parents to bring children to us, but this means parents need to know how to identify children’s needs and access help. In practice, this can mean that the most vulnerable go unnoticed (…) Parents may themselves be too traumatized to see what is going on with their children, they may lack the education to recognize a child in need and they may not know who to contact for help. This is particularly an issue for IDPs.
High Levels of Secondary Trauma (…) Effective Child Protection Must Involve Parents
In our work with child IDPs and families evacuated from the conflict zones, frontline workers report high levels of secondary trauma. Parents, friends and neighbours recount their own traumatic experiences in front of children, generating a climate of fear and anxiety.
I’m convinced that effective child protection needs to involve the parents.
Trainers also encouraged greater self-awareness among participants, and discussed how best to take care of ourselves as child protection workers living through a military crisis.
Both children and adults displaced from the conflict zones in Eastern Ukraine exhibit high levels of PTSD.
Several months after relocation, one little girl heard a tractor engine starting up and she completely panicked. She covered her ears, curled up and started screaming.
Nataliya Andrievskaya, Coordinator of Children’s Services, Kharkiv Charity Fund ‘Social service of help’.
Using the CPMS to Review Existing Child Protection Programming
‘Social Service of Help’ has been active in Kharkhiv since 1996. The organization is widely known locally and nationally. They provide family style care for children, along a similar format to SOS Children’s Villages, and they also run daycare summer camps – excursions, sports and recreational activities for IDP and local children growing up in difficult circumstances. From the outbreak of the conflict, ‘Social Service of Help’ provided immediate support to children, IDPs and the elderly. They distributed 1200 food kits per month, medical assistance, hygiene kits, legal advice and psychological support.
I attended the Frontline Workers’ Training in Kharkhiv. For me, the CPMS workshop was an opportunity to make new connections and develop a more structured understanding of child protection as a field of work. During the training, we reviewed a series of practical programming examples and discussed the extent to which they met (or fell short of) the CPMS. At “Social Service of Help”, we are already quite familiar with international child protection and child rights work. Caritas Vienna is our main donor and they give us lots of trainings.
Challenges and Lessons Learned
As Coordinator of the child protection sub-Cluster, my main challenge has been to keep track of trainings, gather feedback and keep a record of materials developed. Local partners are passionate, enthusiastic and professional, but it’s fair to say the rollout has been somewhat organic and ‘anarchistic’! Funding has been another significant challenge: I didn’t understand we could access global funds until well into the rollout, and many local partners are operating on a shoestring budget. A third challenge has been communication and cooperation between governmental and non-governmental organizatons. We have made progress, but relations are not always straightforward. The Minister of Social Policy attended the contextualization workshop and was very negative about the CPMS. He thought the Standards were binding, requiring changes in Ukrainian legislation and modifications to the curriculum for trainee social workers. Then when he understood the non-binding nature of the Standards, he was very encouraging, urging state social workers to participate in CPMS workshops. That’s something I’ve learned about the Ukrainian context: it’s often easier to work with local partners on an informal basis.