ChildLinK works towards the protection of children against abuse and exploitation, including physical, sexual, emotional, neglect and commercial. ChildLinK aims to strengthen protection networks, systems, policies, procedures and approaches for further impact on the cause.
Some of the Key activities/services of the programme/projects are:
- To provide psychosocial support to vulnerable children and their families, especially children abused or at risk.
- Maintain updated care plans and case records for children accessing child-friendly counseling.
- To carryout home/community visits to children and their families where necessary.
- To monitor children who have been placed in alternative family-based care (foster/kinship Care).
- Parenting Skills Education training for caregivers including parents, Faith Based Organisations, and Community Based Organisations.
- Capacity Building/training of Human Rights Workers in the areas of child rights and development, child protection, child participation and psychosocial support.
- Developing and training Youth Advocates/Mentors (YAMs) in the areas of gender based violence, HIV/AIDS, conflict prevention and conflict transformation, anger management, self esteem building, children’s rights and responsibilities, etc.
- Child Protection sensitization and awareness activities within schools, communities, work places.
- Advocacy and public awareness campaigns to promote the rights of the child nationally with the aim of reducing the incidence of abuse.
- To develop strong partnerships with local and international organizations for the protection of children outside of parental care and at risk of losing parental care
- To provide training and technical support to partners to strengthen child protection policies, systems and practices for the social protection of children.
Key achievements in the last 5 years
ChildLinK has played a leading role in promoting and advocating for the protection of children in Guyana and giving children/youth a voice on issues that concern them. ChildLinK’s expertise lies in providing child friendly counselling and other psychosocial interventions to children, youths and their families, from a rights based approach. ChildLinK has taken a supportive role among key players such as the ChildCare and Protection Agency in the protection of children and has provided training and facilitated skills development for duty bearers, policy and decision makers to take the lead in protecting children.
ChildLinK works with local, national and international partners implementing services to give children the best possible opportunities to grow up to their fullest potential in a safe, secure and caring family or family type environment. The organisation has pioneered several activities for children’s participation, leadership and ownership such as a National Children’s Conference, Children’s Forum, Children’s Rallies, Grand Children’s Day, etc. These forums created the platform for children to articulate their views, concerns and display their talents. ChildLinK has produced comprehensive manuals (Case Management Manuals for Counsellors and Case Workers) for developing counselors to work effectively with young children and families.
ChildLinK has developed in consultation with the ChildCare and Protection Agency their ‘Staff Handbook and Good Practice Guide’. ChildLinK has also produced a series of Parenting Handbooks and Parenting Manuals providing a comprehensive approach and training to service providers and caregivers on parenting.
ChildLinK’s work with children is guided by its Child Protection Policy developed from the Keeping Children Save Toolkit and has supported several local partners including the ChildCare and Protection Agency, to develop and implement their own Child Protection Policies. Over the years ChildLinK has developed a professional and effective team which responds to children who are abused or at serious risk of abuse or neglect, according to its child protection policy, procedures and interventions which help children recover from the trauma of abuse. Since 2009 ChildLinK has piloted a Foster Care initiative in partnership with the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security – ChildCare and Protection Agency and subsequently developed a Foster Care Project and Kinship Project in 2011 which to date has successfully placed 164 children in foster/kinship care and prevented the separation/institutionalization of 83 children.
To date, the Foster Care Project has been handed over to the ChildCare and Protection Agency along with the 2 Case Workers who have been seconded by the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security.
A Guyanese Society where every child has the right to grow up in a safe and secure family and community.
To empower children, families and communities, and supports government, to provide the best environment for children to develop to their fullest potential.
For the next five years ChildLinK proposes to focus its resources on four Strategic Priorities, Priority 1 focusing on our work carries four strategic focus areas. The strategic priorities are as follows:
- Increased Impact – Our work has a positive impact on the reduction in the number of children experiencing violence and without parental care.
- Increased Advocacy – ChildLinK has greater influence in advocating in Guyana for policies, systems and practices which aim to reduce violence and the number of children without parental care.
- Expand Funding initiatives – ChildLinK raises income from a mixed portfolio of income streams to bring about lasting positive changes in the lives of children, their families, communities and society as a whole.
- Maintain high standards of accountability and transparency – ChildLinK is an accountable and effective organisation.
ChildLinK will focus on delivering projects in line with four strategic focus areas, i.e. four groups of vulnerable children:
- Children experiencing abuse in the family and community (physical, sexual and emotional abuse, and neglect resulting in malnutrition and other forms of deprivation).
- Children experiencing barriers to protection, education and development.
- Children needing alternative care options/family based care.
- Children in conflict with the law.
Focus areas 1 and 2 represent a continuation and development of areas of work that EveryChild Guyana / ChildLinK has been doing for some time, but on which there is still much more to do. Focus area 3 is an area of work that ChildLinK has begun in the past three years and requires expansion. Focus area 4 will be a new area for ChildLinK and will therefore require an initial learning period. The portfolio of proposed focus areas therefore represents a manageable balance of established work, developing work and new work.
The implementation plan for each strategic priority will have a theory of change specific to the particular problem faced by each group of children. In addition ChildLinK is also working with an overarching theory about how change can happen to achieve the vision of a Guyanese society where every child has the right to grow up in a safe and secure family and community. Three key pre-conditions are considered necessary to achieve the vision:
- Families, communities and service providers having a child-centred mindset.
- The State ensuring a functioning rights-based child protection system.
- Civil society, citizens and donors contributing to a conducive child rights environment by facilitating access to resources, and strengthening collaboration and governance.
ChildLinK’s origins dated back to 1995 and the registration in Guyana as a branch of the Christian Children’s Fund of Great Britain (CCFGB). In 2002 CCFGB merged with the European Children’s Trust to form EveryChild, and the branch was re-named EveryChild Guyana.
During the 1990s, the programme approach was providing direct aid to children in need, mainly in Georgetown. During the 2000s, EveryChild Guyana, along with its parent organisation, adopted a rights-based approach to programming, and focused its attention on children separated from their families or at risk of being so. The change from direct aid to a rights-based approach introduced efforts to develop projects that not only changed children’s lives, but also resulted in the sustainable development of Guyana’s child protection system.
From 2003 to 2006 the programme focused on basic health care, primary education and orphans and vulnerable children, particularly those living with or affected by HIV and AIDS in Linden and Georgetown. The end of programme evaluation found that work with children, parents, caregivers and teachers had resulted in a significant reduction in abuse of children in the home and in school. Through listening to children, the programme had learned that the children’s priority issue was violence and abuse and a desire for emotional support to deal with it. A study to prepare for the next strategy period revealed a clear connection between family violence and children losing parental care.
From 2007 to 2011 the programme was implementing EveryChild Guyana’s final Country Strategic Plan. Part of the plan concerns Evc UK’s strategic withdrawal from Guyana in March 2011and the handing over to ChildLinK. The legal winding up has been undertaken by EveryChild Legal Representative and ChildLinK as absorb the programme and all its resources including the Human Resources. The strategy of 2007/2011 delivered through four main projects: OneLife, Pickney, Every Child Counts and Partnering with MHSS Piloting Foster Care – alternative family based care and HUG.
- In the OneLife Project 1,600 parents and caregivers in Linden and Georgetown have participated in parenting skills training to help them to improve their relationships with children in their care and create safer homes for their children. Four partners inclusive of MHSSS – CCPA, Linden Care Foundation, Ruimveldt Children Aid Center and Dorothy Bailey Municipal Center implemented this project.
- The Pickney Project facilitates linkages between families, community representatives, faith-based organisations and government services (health, education, police, courts) in three communities to strengthen the child protection system.
- The Every Child Counts Project serves communities in Georgetown renowned for high levels of crime and violence. 1,150 primary and secondary school children have participated in regular education and information sessions on children’s rights. Caregivers have been trained in caring for children without using violence. Teachers have been trained in child protection and child-centred teaching methodologies. The project has supported the strengthening of parent-teacher associations and encouraged children, parents and teachers to take ownership of developing their community non-violently.
- The Child Care and Protection Agency, MHSSS, Unicef and ChildLinKInc piloted Foster Care in Guyana. ChildLinK the implementing partner provided services to 100 children placed with families for foster care and maybe adoption, thereby reducing the number of children in institutional care. This was scaled up to the alternative family based care.
Analysis of the Current Situation – For Children without Parental Care
There are at least 24 million children in the world who are recorded as being without parental care, representing around 1% of the world child population. The figure is likely to be underestimated as many children without parental care are not included in statistics such as children domestic workers, street children or trafficked children. In Guyana, less than 1% of children in institutional care was recorded as children without parental care. Evidence suggests that the number of children without parental care is on the increase; 550 children in institutional care 2006, in 2011 the number has increased to over 700, with factors such as family violence, HIV/AIDS, global recession and an increasing reliance on institutional care, all leading to more children being separated from their mothers and fathers.
The impact of losing parental care on children’s rights
Losing the protection that loving parents can provide has a devastating impact on children’s rights in particular:
- Right to be free from exploitation, violence and abuse
- Right relating to family life
- Survival and health
- Right to develop and learn
- Right to participation
Factors that place children at risk of losing parental care
A loss of parental care is caused by a complex range of inter-related factors including:
- Conflict, violence, abuse and neglect in the family
- Inadequate or inappropriate child protection policies
- A lack of access to good quality education
Children at risk of losing parental care
Evidence on the factors that lead to a loss of parental care suggest that particularly at risk groups are likely to include girls and boys who fit into one or more of the following categories:
- Exposed to violence, abuse, or neglect within the home and/or community
- In emergency situations – as a result of conflict
- Out of school
- Affected by HIV/AIDS
- Children of migrant parents
- Children with disability
- Engaged in harmful forms of work
- Children affected by harmful traditional practices
- In single parent or reconstituted households where parents have re-married
Categories of children without parental care
Children without parental care can usually be divided up into six categories:
- Children living in residential care
- Children living in alternative care, family-based care
- Children living in child only households
- Children placed in juvenile detention
- Children living on the streets without their parents
- Children living with their employers/exploiters
ChildLinK uses a results-based management approach to programme and project planning. Logic models and logical frameworks are used to articulate impact, outcome and output indicators, targets and means of verification. For ChildLinK, results are not just about measuring what change has happened, but also about learning how change happens. Indicators related to the theories of change will therefore also be monitored and evaluated. The Programme Strategy will be complemented by a Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Framework. Implementation and operational plans will include monitoring and evaluation plans.
For ChildLinK, impact means (a) positive changes in the lives of children experiencing particular vulnerabilities in the short-term, and (b) a significant and sustainable reduction in the number of children experiencing those vulnerabilities in the long-term. Depending on the strategic focus area and the context, it may or may not be possible to achieve and measure short-term and long-term impact indicators within the Programme Strategy period. When the time-frame does not permit achievement and measurement of impact indicators, assumptions will have to be made, based on output and outcome measures, about the likelihood of impact being achieved later. After the programme or project is completed, impact can be assessed when sufficient time has passed, resources permitting.
ChildLinK’s mission, rights-based approach and theory of change guide some of the outcomes that will be measured. For example, outcomes contributing to positive changes in the lives of affected children in the short-term include:
- Children (a) having and (b) using knowledge and skills to claim their rights and entitlements, protect themselves and be agents of change in their families and communities;
- Families, caregivers, community groups and service providers (a) having knowledge and skills to respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights, and (b) using the knowledge and skills to take action to keep families and communities safe and secure for children.
And outcomes contributing to a significant and sustainable reduction in the number of vulnerable children in the longer-term include:
- Changes in society’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviours with regard to children’s rights to protection from abuse, exploitation and violence;
- Changes in the child protection system of policies, laws and statutory and community-based services that appropriately and effectively apply universal children’s rights principles with respect to Guyana’s particular economic, social, cultural, civic and political context.
Examples of outcomes specifically related to the overarching theory of change are:
- A National Child Protection Network developed and functioning;
- A functioning broad-based civil society forum, whose members demonstrate collaboration, inclusion and accountability;
- Increased representation of children’s voice in networking between civil society, government and donors on appropriate implementation of child protection policies and laws.
These are general principles guiding ChildLinK’s measurement of results. Indicators and targets specific to each of the four strategic focus areas will be defined during the implementation planning process.