Transforming child protection in Aceh, Indonesia

Focus 15: Providing alternative care in emergency situations

When the tsunami hit in late 2004, the impact for children in Aceh, one of Indonesia’s poorest areas, was immediate. UNICEF estimated that up to 15,000 children were separated from their families, with the vast majority spontaneously taken in by neighbours, friends and extended family overnight.

The Indonesian government reacted decisively, issuing a number of policies to prevent further separation of children from their families, including putting in place a ban on adoption, travel restrictions and deployment of police officers to exit points such as airports and sea ports to prevent children being taken away. As part of the emergency response, government and civil society staff were mobilised to carry out family tracing and reunification, whereby 2,853 children were registered and 82% were placed in family care. Humanitarian agencies also worked with the government to develop a structured system of family monitoring and support and to advocate against institutionalisation. According to a recent evaluation, these initial emergency responses have now evolved into substantial child protection services in Aceh, with international agency support helping to “pave the way for new child care and placement policies and practices, including a shift in governmental policy away from sole support for ‘orphanages’ as a childcare option in favour of substantial support for vulnerable families in order to prevent child-family separations”.

Key components of Aceh’s child protection transformation include: establishment of a child protection unit in Aceh’s Ministry of Social Affairs and child protection bodies in sub-districts; revision of laws and policies on child protection including the promotion/regulation of family-based care for children without parental care; a rise in numbers of trained social workers and child protection staff; and a huge increase in government allocations to child protection and social welfare.

For more information see: Misguided Kindness: Making the right decisions for children in emergencies

International Social Service, Oak Foundation, SOS Children's Villages International, unicef, ATD Fourth World, Better Care Network, Family for every child, ngo group for the crc, PEPFAR, RELAF, Save the Children, USAID