Strengthening Child Protection and Response Services Project for Most Deprived Children benefited 3752 children in 2019 through support to Royal Government of Bhutan, National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC), and Civil Society Organizations to institutionalize, strengthen, and implement an effective child protection and response system through the development of policies, strategies and child protection support and response services. The ‘Steps to Protect’ common approach was introduced as a key approach in Bhutan’s child protection and response system.
Save the Children developed, reviewed and improved long term strategic and sustainable plans for CSO partners – Ability Bhutan Society (ABS), Draktsho and Nazhoen Lamtoen. A Child Safeguarding and Protection policy was developed to ensure child safeguarding standards are clear, comprehensive and enforceable. A response team in the Child Helpline System was also formed to provide immediate support and a standard operating procedure was developed to help the operation of the team. A life skills training for children was conducted by Nazhoen Lamtoen at Youth Development and Rehabilitation Centre (YDRC). YDRC also hosted the Parent Bonding Program.
Steps to Protect
Steps to Protect common approach is a case management that follows a cycle of steps to identify and respond to the needs of the most vulnerable children. This approach believes that children are the focus of the process and should have the opportunity and encouragement to fully participate in every phase of the Case Management process. It enables service providers to endorse a systematic step-by-step process to working with children and their families to address all forms of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect experienced by children.
In July 2019, 23 participants from National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC), Ability Bhutan Society (ABS), Draktsho, Nazhoen Lamtoen, Royal Bhutan Police, Ministry of Labor and Human Resources, Youth Development Fund, RENEW and Dratshang Lhentshog attended the ‘Steps to Protect’ silver course, under the supervision of Ms. Jane Calder, Technical Advisor from Save the Children UK (SCUK).
Quality Assessment Framework of the existing Case Management System was successfully completed. The Framework aims to understand the operational protection and response system related to case management in Bhutanese context, and use the outcome of QAF exercise to improve the existing child protection case management practice.
Nazhoen Lamtoen is the only CSO in Bhutan providing care, protection and reintegration of children in difficult circumstances and children who come into conflict with the law.
In 2019, Nazhoen Lamtoen spearheaded the pilot Case Management of children in difficult circumstances in five districts – Thimphu, Paro, Mongar, Zhemgang and Chukha. They recruited 3 Case Management Officers and stationed them in Chukha, Mongar and Zhemgang districts.
In March 2019, a total of 8 Nazhoen Lamtoen staff (4 F, 4 M) received training on Child Protection and Introduction to Case Management approach from Save the Children. Nazhoen Lamtoen staff were also engaged in a five-day training in May 2019 in Child Protection and Case Management facilitated by Nazhoen Lamtoen Executive Director, Save the Children Child Protection Officer and National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) Legal Officer. The training mainly oriented new Case Managers of the pilot districts on Nazhoen Lamtoen’s mandate, how to manage cases, child safeguarding, on Child Care and Protection Act and other child related Acts of Bhutan. Nazhoen Lamtoen completed the home validation in Chukha based on the rapid assessment conducted to identify the most deprived children in the pilot districts. A total of 24 children were identified through the assessment from which 7 were eligible after screening.
The case management approach has been a very effective approach in handling cases and offering the right support in collaboration and consultation with relevant service providers. It is reported that Nazhoen Lamtoen staff are more confident in implementing the case management process since the capacity strengthening trainings.
Children’s Halfway Home
Also called the ‘transitional shelter’, the children’s halfway home was established by Nazhoen Lamtoen in 2018 to provide immediate care and protection for children in very difficult circumstances until appropriately reunited with family, has access to education and health services, and or eventually reintegrated into the society.
Bhutan Country Office supported the establishment and operation of the Children’s Halfway Home that has, till date, provided the services to 35 children. Of which, 24 children have been reunified with their families through the case management approach. Throughout the process, the child and their family, and caregivers were consulted. A feedback mechanism system was established for children where they could express their opinions and write feedbacks for the betterment of shelter services.
To keep children engaged in learning, the shelter home organizes various classes such as Art Class by VAST Bhutan, sports, yoga, aerobics, kitchen therapy (baking and cooking), garden therapy, dance classes by Gokab, reading classes by Read Bhutan and creative craft (knitting and paper crafts). Such activities enabled children to build their own interests/hobbies facilitated by relevant organizations and service providers.
“I have been living in the shelter home for 11 months and I like it here because I have friends, I can go on field trips with them and, I can bake and paint”, said a 15-year-old boy at the Halfway Home.
“I love being in the shelter home as I receive more attention and care than in my actual home,” a girl child said.
“It has encouraged me to study,” said an 18- year old boy.
Child Safeguarding and Protection Policy
In 2019, Save the Children supported National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) in developing Child Safeguarding and Protection Policy with the objective to promote and protect child rights, and to create a public understanding that the best interests of the child be considered dominantly in all actions affecting children. Child safeguarding and protection policy aims to provide directives and guidance to the organizations so that they work with children in a sensitive manner. The policy will be applicable both within and outside the work environment and staffs shall be liable for action if any of the principles and values are breached.
Child Helpline System
To strengthen the National Child Helpline 1098, 2 counsellors were recruited to ensure that appropriate human resource was available for the Helpline 24/7. In addition, the hired 3 Child Protection Officers, who were trained to operate and provide guidance through the Child Helpline System.
In the past one year, the National Child Helpline 1098 recorded a total of 2,442 calls (1498 boys, 944 girls) seeking support and services such as for counselling, information, and to report on abuse and exploitation. The National Child Helpline services provided go beyond the telephonic counselling, extending to emergency assistance and provision of long-term care and protection including referral for rehabilitation, repatriation and reintegration support.
Strengthening Child Justice System in Bhutan
The Phase II of Strengthening Child Justice System project, implemented in partnership with the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC), the Royal Bhutan Police and local CSO Nazhoen Lamtoen benefited 34 children and 90 adults.
· The project achieved the following in 2019;
· Child friendly procedures were harmonized, and all key service providers were made aware of their roles and responsibilities.
· Judge and the lawyer from the Child & Family Bench were trained on child justice system.
· Three Child Protection Officers were appointed and trained.
· The children/ youth released from the Youth Development and Rehabilitation Centre (YDRC) received counselling and support services from Nazhoen Lamtoen for reintegration with their families and society.
· Two professional training instructors were posted at the Youth Development and Rehabilitation Centre, the only correctional facility.
· Two Police Officers were trained in Child Psychology, Counselling and Rehabilitation. They conducted roll-out training for 25 (7 F, 18 M) non-commissioned Officers from Pre-trial centre and Youth Development and Rehabilitation centre.
Supporting Vocational Training for Children with Disabilities
Save the Children with support from Save the Children US through donations from Mr. William Mark Haber and Ms. Heike Margarethe Sommers supported the classroom and multi-purpose training hall at Draktsho-East Vocational Training Institute benefitting 67 children with disabilities. The children will use the classroom and the hall to learning basic literacy and maths and vocational skills in tailoring, embroidery, painting, doll-making etc. The new infrastructures were inaugurated in November 2019. Draktsho is the only institute providing support to children with mild to moderate physical and cognitive disabilities.
The Children were also provided with locally written reading materials and storybooks.
The centre aspires to enhance the living standard of children and youth with various types of disabilities through empowerment by training, education and eventual integration with the mainstream population. Draktsho has two branches established – Thimphu, the capital city and Trashigang in the East.
In Bhutan children with disabilities are among the most deprived children. They lack appropriate support and services as the focus, at least for now, on health and education etc., of children without disabilities. However, studies show that 21 percent of 2-9 years old children are living with one form of disability. Thus, Save the Children, with the objective of reaching the most deprived children, have initiated to implement programs for children with disabilities.
Space for children of incarcerated mothers
Save the Children supported the Royal Bhutan Police to establish a ‘safe space’ for children who are accompanying their mother serving prison terms at the Open-Air Prison for women at Dawakha, in Paro district. This is the first and only such space established in the country and immediately benefited 10 very young (breastfeeding) children and 38 mothers.
Children accompanying their mothers who are serving prison terms constitute the most deprived children in Bhutan as no support services or interventions are provided. They remain deprived of their right to appropriate care, protection, and early simulation and development. Save the Children is the only agency partnering with the police in this program - a case in point of credibility and strong partnership in the country.