Improving Information Management Systems for Better Child Protection Services
The Department of Children’s Services (DCS) recognizes that violence against and exploitation of children remains a major challenge, particularly in homes, at school or within the community, the very settings that are supposed to provide a protective environment to children. According to the findings of a national violence against children survey, violence against children is a serious problem in Kenya. The current levels of violence reported by youth aged 13 years to 17 years indicate that 11 percent of girls and four percent of boys experience sexual violence and that 49 percent of girls and 48 percent of boys experience physical violence (UNICEF, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] and Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, 2012).
In Kenya, children comprise over half of the country’s population: There are 21 million children out of a total population of 38.6 million (GOK, 2010), which places a huge responsibility on DCS. The 2007/2008 post-election violence resulted in the major displacement of children who were exposed to abuse, violence, and exploitation. In 2014/15, DCS received a total of almost 120,000 reported child protection cases. At that point, there was no information management system and the department could not distinguish cases emerging from violence from those associated with other child protections issues.
Protecting children during emergencies saves lives both immediately and in the long term. In times of crisis, boys and girls face increased risk. They may be separated from their families, trafficked, and recruited or enslaved by armed forces and groups. They may also be economically exploited or physically or sexually abused. Thousands of children are killed or injured every year by explosive weapons and land mines. In the long term, children’s survival and development are jeopardized as their societies’ ability to invest in their future is weakened.
It is estimated that the global damage caused by the physical, psychological, and sexual violence against children reaches $7 trillion, or eight percent of global GDP (Kearney, 2015). This is burdensome for Kenya, whose GDP is quite low and where there are myriad development challenges. In a country where millions cannot access basic services due to high poverty levels, there is likely to be an increase in the number of vulnerable children who are at risk of being abused and exploited.
A strengthened child protection system helps build resilience and promote sustainable development. In order for DCS to have a robust child protection system and so that it can carry out its mandate, it needs to align its strategies with recent policies, guidelines, and standards. The USAID-funded MEASURE Evaluation PIMA (MEval-PIMA) is supporting DCS in systems strengthening and capacity building at the national and county levels to enhance its child protection information management systems (CPIMS) so that it can capture its diverse information needs and provide comprehensive data to all actors in the child protection system.
MEval-PIMA has supported DCS to align its strategies through a strategic plan review in line with the national development agenda—Vision 2030—of having an integrated data management system for children under child protection programs.
DCS, in collaboration with MEval-PIMA, conducted a midterm review of the department’s 2013-2017 strategic plan and aligned its key strategies with the national development agenda during the performance period.
The review of the strategic plan prioritized key strategies and activities, such as support programs for parents or caregivers raising children in tough circumstances to help them provide protection and care, thus reducing household vulnerabilities.
The review also recognized the importance of regular monitoring of programs to provide data that will assess the status of child rights and welfare and that will improve children’s rights to survival and protection and participation and development goals. The review emphasized the importance of evidence-informed child programming policies and actions.
“I am impressed by the efforts being put in place to strengthen the child protection system through the CPIMS that will be able to provide updated data on child protection issues so the department can prevent child abuse and exploitation and respond appropriately,” said Susan Mochache, the principal secretary of social security and services in the Kenyan Ministry of Labour and East Africa Affairs, who was reading a speech on behalf of the Cabinet Secretary.
To deliver immediate results in the DCS, MEval-PIMA is helping to build the capacity of the department’s officers to use evidence-based decision making. Use of information in policy formulation, planning, and monitoring and evaluation is expected to improve child protection services and outcomes. The child protection service points include 28 statutory institutions, rehabilitation schools, rescue centers, and remand homes; two child protection centers; 185 subcounty offices, and 47 county offices.