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Actors in Child Protection: Interplay between the Roles of Police Officers and Social Workers

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Abstract

The protection of children is a value shared by all cultures and communities around the globe. In almost all societies, responsibility for raising children well and preparing them for adulthood goes beyond the parents and is shared, to some degree, by the community at large. The community’s investment in the well-being of its children is reflected in cultural mores and social norms, and in legal frameworks that permit intervention in individual families when children are abused or neglected. Exploring the experiences of social workers and police officers in working in the child protection helped the researcher in identifying the pressuring problems and challenges faced by the child protection. This study will help the future researchers formulate solutions for the enhancement of the protection of the children. This study conducted a one-on-one interview and secondary analysis of data. All of the respondents of this research are registered, voters. Under a qualitative approach, this study used thematic analysis in order to interpret and analyze the data gathered. In the light of Republic Act 7610, it assessed the political and civil rights of the abused children that are well-being safeguarded by this law. Also, it shows in this study that the implementation of the said law continuously gives strong protection to the children but more needs to be done.

Keywords: child abuse, child protection, police officers, social workers, interplay, RA 7610

Introduction

Children in the Philippines are guaranteed their rights, and their best interests are enshrined in the Constitution, the basic law of the country, as well as in other laws. All institutions of the land – from family, school, church, community, and others – are called upon to protect and promote the welfare of the Filipino child. In fact, the Philippines is among the first countries in the world that has adopted a Child and Youth Welfare Code. Passed in 1974, the Child and Youth Welfare Code, also known as Presidential Decree 603 (PD 603), contains provisions that articulate not only the rights and privileges of children but also the responsibilities of the State and its institutions toward children and youth. (Capadocia-Yangco, 2010)

The Philippine government through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) and among other agencies have embarked on a comprehensive and integrated approach to children’s development along the areas of survival, protection, development, and participation. Part of this holistic approach is the prevention and early detection of child maltreatment as well as the recovery, rehabilitation, and after-care for maltreated or abused children. (Capadocia-Yangco, 2010)

Different types of services that provide help and support for children in need; those who were in conflict of the law and the ones who experienced trauma and abuse. Moreover, these types of services have different potential professionals, or as we call it in this study, “players/actors” in child protection units and those are the doctors, psychiatrists, nurses, police officers, lawyers, judges, social workers, and even the civilians in the community who have been a witness and has the power and ability to report it. These actors in child protection units have a critical role more than we see it and this study focused on the specific relationship of the roles of the police officers and the social workers.

Importantly, in terms of child protection work, an analysis of the perceptions of police officers and social workers remains vitally important because it may help us to understand more fully why the social work/police relationship has historically been the focal point for ruptures in joint working relationships (Gillen, 2002; Orkneys Report, 1992; Secretary of State for Social Services, 1988). The key aim of this article, therefore, was to illuminate how police officers and social workers perceive their jobs and each other, and how their roles connect and contribute to the vitality of the protection of the children.

Theoretical Background

The researcher sought to extend this work by relying on the Practice Model to help families achieve positive outcomes, child welfare systems throughout the country are strengthening their approaches to practice. Effective child welfare systems are founded upon and driven by an overarching theoretical or conceptual framework that unifies all domains of agency functions. A child welfare practice model is a conceptual map and articulated organizational ideology of how agency employees, families, and stakeholders should partner in creating a physical and emotional environment that focuses on the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and their families.

The practice model contains definitions and explanations regarding how the agency as a whole will work internally and partner with families, service providers, and other stakeholders in child welfare services. A practice model is the clear, written explanation of how the agency successfully functions. The practice model should make an explicit link connecting the agency’s policy and practice with its mission, vision, and core principles. It is a framework to guide the daily interactions of employees, families, stakeholders, and community members connected to their work with the child welfare agency in conjunction with the standards of practice to achieve defined outcomes.

Literature Review

Challenges Facing the Child Protection System

Many steep challenges face the nation’s system of response to child abuse and neglect. In 1994, almost 3 million reports of child maltreatment were made by concerned individuals who took the initiative to make the report and who expected their actions to be helpful to the children. The allegations were substantiated by authorities about one-third of the time. The result for some of these children was that their families received help. An appropriately smaller number were removed from their homes to protect them while their families were given the chance to benefit from services. The current system is advanced compared to what was in place even a generation ago, yet it still does not respond effectively to all legitimate community concerns for the safety of children. (Schene, 1998)

Different roles played in child protection

Other agencies and community members also play critical roles in protecting children from abuse and neglect and responding to maltreatment once it occurs. This broad community system includes the individuals who report abuse and neglect, the hotline that receives and evaluates reports, and the CPS agency that investigates those reports. Law enforcement officials or police officers may participate in the investigation by gathering evidence and helping to decide whether to remove the children from the home, and they press criminal charges against perpetrators when such charges are warranted.

Reports of abuse or neglect that warrant investigation are typically assigned to a CPS staff member or social worker, who must draw conclusions regarding the validity of the allegations, the identity of the perpetrator, and the condition of all the children in the home. The CPS worker also determines the need for further agency oversight of the family, the need to remove the child or perpetrator from the home, and the need to immediately involve law enforcement, the courts, or other service providers in the community.

Juvenile and family courts hear the allegations of abuse and neglect brought against families by police and child protective services agencies, and they decide if the situation makes it necessary for the child to be placed outside the home, if services to the parent should be ordered by the court, or if no action is needed. This is the forum for considering safe alternatives to removal such as providing services to the family, removing the abuser from the home, or sending the child to stay with relatives. (Schene, 1998)

Assumption 2: There are different roles being played in Child Protection Units and each one of them contributes huge help for the protection of the children.

Child protection policies

Republic Act 7610 “An Act Providing for Stronger Deterrence and Special Protection Against Child Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination, mandates the DSWD and the Department of Justice (DOJ) in coordination with other government agencies and the private sector concerned, to come up with a comprehensive program to protect children against child prostitution and other sexual abuse, child trafficking, obscene publications, and indecent shows or other acts of abuse and circumstances which endanger survival and normal development. RA 7610 was further amended by RA 9231 to provide for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour and afford stronger protection for working children.

In the meantime, Republic Act 9262, known as the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004, seeks to prevent all forms of violence against women and children to secure their physical, sexual and psychological well-being and has specific mandates for the DSWD. Under this law, violence against women and their children is considered a public crime. Temporary protection orders are issued to restrain the offender from causing further violence. The same is true for RA 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act which institutes policies to eliminate trafficking in persons, specially women and children.

From a review of what the Philippines has adopted and implemented for the prevention and management of child abuse/maltreatment, a great deal has been achieved, but more needs to be done. Having codes and laws that are specific to child protection, welfare and development has established the legal framework from which the Child 21 and Comprehensive Program on Child Protection were built on. These laws and framework plan have likewise laid the network for an integrated and multi-disciplinary approach to tackle the phenomenon. It likewise somehow articulated the political will to prioritize the issues relating to children.

Assumption 2: There are different roles being played in Child Protection Units and each one of them contributes huge help for the protection of the children. Two main roles are police officers and social workers who face difficulties every now and then. ASSUMPTION 3: How police officers and social workers perceive their jobs or roles and each other in the child protection unit must be reflected with Republic Act 7610

Simulacrum

(Interplay between Police Officers and Social Workers in Child Protection) (

  • Made a large impact on the protection of the children
  • Gave importance and relevance to the role of police officers and social workers in the CPU) (
  • Lack of social workers
  • Lack of Facilities
  • Complicated cases due to unclear concepts and terminologies in RA 7610) (Implementation of the Law) (The Relationship between the Police Officers and Social Workers’ roles) (Challenges being faced by the Police Officers and Social Workers)(
  • Social workers draw conclusions regarding the validity of the allegations, the identity of the perpetrator, and the condition of all the children in the home
  • Police officers participate in the investigation by gathering evidence and helping to decide whether to remove the children from the home, and they press criminal charges against perpetrators when such charges are warranted)

Method

A qualitative approach is used in this study because through this approach it helped the researcher to identify and interpret the information and the data gathered.

This study used a narrative design to simply narrate the experiences and stories of police officers and social workers on how they handle the job or case. Furthermore, narrative design helped the researcher explain clearly the information on the data that has been gathered. The method used in this study is descriptive method under a qualitative approach. The researcher described and have been identified whether police officers’ and social workers’ roles have a huge impact on both ends. Also, through a descriptive method, it helped the researcher to describe furtherly the situation of police officers and social workers regarding the conflict in roles they face and how they solve it. A one-on-one interview is conducted in order to gather an in-depth data about their day-to-day experiences in child protection. Also, in the data gathering procedure, the researcher collected secondary analysis of data. This data consists of report and related articles that used to formulate the interplay of roles between police officers and social workers. The researcher used thematic analysis, transcribing of interview, coding, and category as the main strategy in formulating the data that were gathered. Under thematic analysis, the researcher looked for recurring statements in the data. After that the researcher has formulated themes in the data gathered and was able to answer the research objectives of this study. The researcher conducted the study in Manila City. The researcher conducted an interview to two different social workers and police officers in Manila: LGU-Manila District 4 Office/Precinct. The researcher chose Manila City for this study because it is accessible to gather data.

Results and Analysis

Profile of the Informants

NAME

AGE

CIVIL STATUS

OCCUPATION

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PO2 Sarah Julaton

34

Married

Police Officer

PO2 Roseann Sundiam

32

Married

Police Officer

Rofelia de Alca

29

Single

Head of Social Work

Mary

32

Married

Social Worker

Different roles played in child protection

In the interview, both the police officers stated that the main role of the police officer in the CPU is that, they are the ones who refer or turnover the case to the child protection especially if it is an abused cased or a Child in Conflict of the Law (CICL) case. They both explained that most of the time, the family or the child approach the precinct first because of the perception of the community that police officers are the ones who protect and maintain order in the area. The first police officer perceive their role as a very important role especially in filing the case because before the filing, they should have already investigated the case and the people involved thoroughly, checking the basic information so that they will have a solid ground on arresting and incriminating the perpetrator. On the other hand, the second police officer shared that being a police officer in the CPU is sometimes complicated, because of the law RA 9344 or Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 that states that even if the child is in conflict with the law, the police cannot just take responsibility of the child that is why they turn the child over to the social workers in the CPU.

As the interview continued, both the social workers agreed that the main role of a social worker in the CPU is to interview and assess the child; the risks, the safety of the child especially if the perpetrator lives with them, social workers will have to pull-out the child out of home, but in cases that the PNP can arrest the perpetrator first, the perpetrator will be the first to be removed from the area. And not only the police officers refer cases to the social workers in the CPU, but the social workers to the police also refer cases that need the involvement of the court.

Both the social workers attested that being a social worker in the CPU is complicated and challenging because the cases are always different. There are some cases that the perpetrator possesses political power, resulting to them checking not only the risk of the client but also theirs. The expert social worker, Ms. De Alca I interviewed clarifies that “As a social worker, your function should be really clear to you and whatever case you’re dealing with because if your limitations are not clear to you, you’ll be doing measures and procedures that are not involved in your role and affect the role of others; police officers, lawyers, or medic, who are also part of the case.” She also added that not because a social worker is registered, does not mean that they cannot be open for investigation and complaint.

Challenges in the work of the Police Officers and Social Workers

The work that a police officer and social worker do together is the interview with the child. The police or social worker cannot interview the child first and then the latter comes later. The protocol of the CPU states that the police officer and social worker should interview the child especially in cases of abuse, at the same time and once only to prevent the recurrence of the trauma to the child.

All of the four participants agreed on the challenges they face in the CPU. As the police officers claim, it is the availability of social workers. There are instances that the child is in urgent need of a substitute guardian and there are no present social workers in some offices. Unfortunately, social workers lack in numbers. Not all social workers are trained for child protection services. In LGU-Manila District Office, only 3 CPU social workers are assigned and authorized for the whole district. Another challenge is the lack of facilities when it comes to safekeeping of the child. According to the two social workers, the problem with this is that social welfare is not a priority of the present administration as the expert social workers said for social services facilities are seen as a “liability” because building a facility is not only the case, but the government must also fund the expenses needed to keep it going and functioning. There are also a conflict in cases when the abused case involves the Indigenous People because they have their own culture on how they will treat a perpetrator and that has to be respected, but as social workers, they always check the welfare of the child.

Child Protection Policies

The policies and laws that the participants encountered as cases were Republic Act 7610, Republic Act 9262, Republic Act 5385, Republic Act 9344-106330, Presidential Decree 603, Anti-Child Labor Law, and Anti-Rape Law. The only problem they see with those laws is that there are no backbones, it is not always supported by the NGOs, and if it is, a problem occurs when it is elevated to LGUs.

Abuse factors that contribute to the incidence of physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse in Filipino families, such as intergenerational patterns wherein the perpetrators of the abuse come from the child’s family of origin, unconscious family myths that are passed on from generation to generation in families that justify the abuse, quality of marital relationship, the physical or emotional absence of the mother, child-rearing practices, family stressors, community beliefs, and substance abuse of the perpetrator. Experiences of child abuse appear to be a predictor that has been observed in earlier studies of violent behavior among convicted felons who committed violent crimes.

Discussion

Maguire-Jack and Byers (2014) find that having maltreatment prevention services within the county may influence CPS workers’ decisions to substantiate maltreatment and provide ongoing services, with some workers providing more services when community services were not available and others being more likely to substantiate services when families would not voluntary take up community services. Similarly, Fluke, Chabot, Fallon, MacLaurin, and Blackstock (2010) found that a lack of community resources was associated with the decision to place children into care, and was a contributing factor to placement disparities. However, caseworkers face many barriers to aiding clients, with service availability and accessibility limited (Geen & Tumlin, 1999). Even when services are available, agencies may lack the funding to pay for needed services or the staffing needed to provide adequate attention to each case (Geen & Tumlin, 1999).

The sole purpose of this study was to analyze the interplay between the police officers and social workers in the CPU, how they perceive each roles, and how the implementation of the Republic Act 7610 affects the situation in cases of child protection. The republic act’s function and goal is being implemented and complied to by different roles of different actors in the child protection unit specifically the police officers and social workers. There are many factors that affect the relationship of the roles of police officers and social workers and circumstances that hinder or limit their ability to get their roles acted upon.

Recommendations

After a review of conclusion and summary, the following recommendations are made: First, for the government, the government must strengthen the RA 7610 or the An Act Providing for Stronger Deterrence and Special Protection Against Child Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination. According to the participants, RA 7610 should not be amended but needs to be clarified in terms of educating the family about the terminologies and concepts of the law. There are cases that discipline is mistaken as abuse but as the law provides, if the child complains and is hurt, the parent must be subject to the court. Also, the government should strengthen Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004, specifically in the civil rights of women and children because this is one of the main cause or root of child maltreatment that happens inside the home. Second, to the legislature, the legislature body should elaborate more on the rules and laws pertaining to the procedure, evidence, and solution to cases of child maltreatment and more awareness movement to inform the people and the community that every child is our responsibility in terms of looking out for them. Third, to future researcher, try to focus more on the numerous of different cases and situations in which the child protection spectrum face that affects the child, family, and the roles of those professionals involved and give more attention on how they handle these cases.

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