Leveraging multi stakeholders collaborations to transform services to children

Omattie ChildLinK • 19 February 2021

ChildLinK Inc is a leading not-for-profit organisation in Guyana in the Caribbean. Our work largely focuses on the protection and development of children. ChildLinK has been a member of Family for Every Child from its inception and strongly embraces the goals of this global network of over 40 members from countries across all continents.  ChildLinK has a passionate team of employees working on the reintegration of children into family-based care and on the prevention and protection of children from all forms of abuse including child sexual abuse. You can read more about these two areas of our work in two of our publications, Cries in the Dark - Child Sexual Abuse in Guyana Today (childlinkgy.org) and An Analysis of the Nature and Extent of Institutionalization of Children in Guyana (childlinkgy.org).

Altogether, there are twenty-five staff and several grassroots and national partners that deliver on ChildLinK’s vision of a Guyanese society where children grow up in a safe and secure family and community. ChildLinK partners with several agencies including government and civil society agencies and has been working more closely with grassroots groups to raise the concerns of the most vulnerable and marginalised. Our collaborations with civil society increase the opportunities across society to raise the issues of local people and to ensure that their voices are included in decision-making forums. 

One of our bigger and more recent initiatives that we are very proud to share is the reintegration of over 100 children from orphanages/institutions into family-based care.  Whilst reintegration can be long and challenging for both the child and family our approach uses the international Guidelines on Children’s Reintegration that Family for Every Child was influential in developing to ensure good practice. Both the national child protection agency and ChildLinK’s team were trained and are implementing the Guidelines which are critical and important for safeguarding children.

In 2014, ChildLinK established another innovative service; the child advocacy centres (CAC), providing services to children who have been sexually abused. The first centre was established in Georgetown and subsequently four additional centres were opened in three semi-rural regions. We are currently expanding the services into hinterland communities to enable more children to access these services. We work with a multi-disciplinary team (police, child protection, health care, civil society) in the CACs. The civil society partners in the CAC have a leading role in advocating for greater protection of children. Together, we make meaningful changes, build wider networks and grow our relationships with all stakeholders. This multi-disciplinary team approach brings a variety of resources and more actors together to find solutions to complex problems. For example, in our hinterland regions, access to the CAC will remain a challenge because of the terrain and inadequate transport hence, we are collaborating to pilot a mobile centre.

ChildLinK has experienced many vital and dynamic changes as a member of Family for Every Child. Significantly, we have learnt to build strong collaborations which led us to grow our local programme and build a network with government, civil society and grassroots to achieve our overall goals. This has resulted in a more robust relationship with our development partners as we are better placed to lead changes at policy level, in our practice and services and at the grassroots with children and families. We have learnt to manage bureaucratic partnerships, which has been instrumental in the government sustaining the innovative and new services we have initiated for safeguarding children. In addition, ChildLinK’s membership in Family has resulted in outcomes that are improving the quality of care for children. We are involved in the Reintegration Working Group in Family and have learnt from other members’ experiences of incorporating the Guidelines on Children’s Reintegration in their own programmes. This Working Group has also identified indicators of good practice in reintegration, which include ensuring that children’s voices are listened to, in order to help us understand what children consider to be a good reintegration process. We are currently undertaking an evaluation of our reintegration work using this approach.

We are also working closely with four Family for Every Child members to launch the Blue Umbrella campaign in April 2021. This campaign focuses largely on the care of boys and preventing sexual abuse against boys. Locally, the Blue Umbrella Campaign helps us to make it easy to speak about why boys need protection. Globally, we will share our research findings on caring for boys across four countries.

Working together in Family and staying connected has always been prioritised and members have many options to connect and collaborate. The new Community of Practice platform has added an exciting forum for us to share and be informed of activities, not only between Family members, but really growing into a much-needed global space for CSOs to build worldwide networks. Changemakers for Children enhances learning about the creativity and innovative approaches of CSOs from around the world to bring about long-term changes in the lives of the most vulnerable.