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Expanding Capacities in Child Protection Through Multi-Disciplinary Teams

By Lois Engelbrecht
Expanding Capacities in Child Protection Through Multi-Disciplinary Teams

On November 17, 2015, representatives from four international schools in the greater Manila area met at Faith Academy to set up a multidisciplinary team, initiating the process of expanding their child protection policies to include local resources. The purpose of the meeting was twofold: to orient international schools with respect to existing local resources and increase access to these authorities for students and their families while creating a forum through which international schools can support one another.
Every participating school already has a child protection policy in place, some as mandated by the Department of Education; that of Faith Academy is well-developed. All policies abide by the Philippine law mandating that abuse and violence be reported to the authorities.
The session touched on several examples from the perspective of the school, the authorities, and the medical establishment that highlighted the need for case-by-case decisions. Because child abuse takes a variety of forms and its consequences manifest in a variety of areas, the response must be similarly multidisciplinary.
Setting up a multidisciplinary team among international schools can facilitate the dialogue between two very different systems and populations. In countries such as the Philippines that have well-defined laws, setting up an MDT promotes understanding among these systems and populations, especially when a level of mistrust exists. The factors inhibiting trust were discussed during the meeting.
Dr. Lois Engelbrecht from the Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse (CPTCSA) presented the issue from a system’s perspective and based in specific examples from the international expatriate communities. Attorney Sevilla from the organization ACTIVE—a legal activist with 10 years of experience prosecuting cases of child abuse, including those involving foreigners—presented the child protection law. Dr. Tan, who is part of the Child Protection Unit at the Philippine General Hospital (CPU-PGH), presented the medico-legal perspective and shared her vast knowledge and experience working with children—including international students.
The Philippines has a law mandating that suspected child abuse be reported and outlining the various ways to go about doing it.
1) Alert the CPU-PGH, when there is the possibility of physical evidence (from arm bruising to torn hymen). The CPU-PGH is staffed with professionals trained in country and abroad and has vast knowledge in the field. Its members will provide holistic services, as well as make the necessary report to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and to the Philippine National Police (PNP). So long as the CPU is handling the case and does not require direct services from the PNP, most cases need not involve the police directly.
2) A second option is to contact the DSWD directly, which will report to the PNP on the victim’s behalf. “Reporting” does not imply arrest, it means requesting help that could include an investigation and recommended ongoing services.
3) A third option is to report the case to a Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) that will coordinate with the other authorities. The law on mandated reporting means that the case must still be brought to the attention of the DSWD, but if the victim can prove that the case is being handled appropriately by an accredited service, the DSWD will merely formally note the case without insisting on being directly involved. It is important to officially report the alleged offender’s name for the purpose of possible future legal action and, more importantly, to protect the child and the school.
To conclude the meeting, Ms. Rosales of CPTCSA offered to facilitate the establishment and management of the MDT for international schools in the region. The MDT will include at least one member of the CPU-PGH, CPTCSA, and Atty. Sevilla, to be joined by other members as needed. The schools present offered to constitute the core group that hopefully will be expanded to include more international schools going forward.

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