INTERNATIONAL Justice Mission (IJM) hosted the launch of A Strong Network of Care: Applying an Assessment Model as the Basis for Specialized Care for Child Survivors of Online Sexual Exploitation.
The two-year project, funded by a grant from the US State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, will be executed by IJM in partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (Iacat), Child
Protection Network (CPN), and the Parenting Foundation of the Philippines (PFP).
The virtual ceremonial launch of A Strong Network of Care was held last August 19, 2021 and was attended by 23 partners and stakeholders from around the country, as well as by Daniel Evensen, grants officer representative from the US State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
An inter-agency partnership
“Active collaboration between and among agencies is what will make this be more effective. We are truly excited for our local and national levels of government who are working hand in hand to maximize our capabilities, and also to empower local ownership and sustainability of our efforts,” said lawyer Lucille Dejito, director of IJM Cebu. “This launch is both celebration and thanksgiving for how far we have come as a community in support of survivors of online sexual exploitation.”
Trauma-informed and survivor-centered
Developing a survivor and trauma-informed assessment model is central to A Strong Network of Care’s research-based approach designed to address current gaps in meeting the needs of child survivors.
The project aims to equip a Philippine network of social services to empower child survivors toward healthy reintegration, focusing on the National Capital Region, Central Luzon and Calabarzon in Luzon, Central Visayas and Eastern Visayas, and Northern Mindanao and Caraga in Mindanao.
Sustainable interventions in mental health services and foster/kinship care will primarily focus on Mindanao. The project will impart ownership to the local communities, ensuring its sustainability.
“A Strong Network of Care continues the development of aftercare expertise with and for child survivors and is a significant step not just in restoration but in preventing re-victimization and re-traumatization,” said lawyer Samson Inocencio, regional vice president of IJM’s Global Programs Against Online Sexual Exploitation of Children.
The crucial role of foster care
“Online sexual exploitation of children seems like somehow an illusion, not real; it’s just virtual. But believe me when I say that it is real...we cannot see it, but we know that it is there and we also know that it has some long-term effects,” said Maria Paz U. de Guzman, executive director of the Parenting Foundation of the Philippines, one of IJM’s key partners in the program.
“And we hope through foster care that there will be no such long-term effects and that the handling, the loving relationship between the foster child and the foster family that is developed through foster care will help in the children’s recovery. And hopefully their future resilience, from being an exploited victim to a survivor who becomes a useful member of society,” she added.
“While previously, survivors have been relegated to the role of a mere recipient of services, passively awaiting rescue or assistance, this project will attempt to engage and involve survivors in decisionmaking and program development and which will hopefully spur their empowerment and eventual reintegration,” said Department of Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, undersecretary-in-charge of Iacat, who delivered the closing remarks at the launch.
“To our partners in International Justice Mission, thank you for taking on this initiative, and for the continued support of the Philippine government in advancing our work in protecting our children,” Villar added. (PR)