Key Areas of Focus:
Child Protection, Family Preservation, Social Service Workforce Strengthening, Child Abuse and Neglect, Family-Based Alternative Care
Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC) is an independent, non-profit paediatric healthcare organisation with a mission of improving healthcare for all Cambodian children. AHC has delivered compassionate, holistic care to children from across the country for 20 years. Today, AHC has established itself as a centre of excellence through provision of high-quality, specialist services not found elsewhere in Cambodia; a commitment to education and capacity-building that extends beyond its walls; and its embodiment of exemplary governance and accountability. Through data, research, and policy-setting, AHC is making a wider impact by strengthening healthcare systems and influencing child health locally, regionally and internationally.
The Social Work Unit at AHC is the first of its kind in Cambodia. Developed in 2010, it is now a leader in medical social work care in the country, providing unparalleled psychological and child protection support to patient families.
What They Do:
The Social Work Unit at AHC plays a critical role across all departments, protecting children vulnerable to abuse and abandonment, and helping patients and families cope with the psychological stress of hospitalisation. The unit also implements child protection measures and provides much needed counselling support to patients and caregivers alongside financial and material assistance as part of AHC’s holistic approach to caring for the whole child, not just the illness they present with.
AHC’s Social Work Unit has four key functions:
- Psychological Support: AHC provides psychological support within the hospital for children and families, along with follow-up care. Psychological support includes emotional counselling and play therapy – storytelling, art classes, and playtime to both provide education to patients and families and distraction for children undergoing medical procedures. Staff self-care is another psychological support service the social work team provides at AHC. AHC refers patients and families to trained psychologists when necessary.
- Child Protection: AHC’s Social Work Unit collaborates closely with government departments and NGOs to build common resources and share knowledge and skills around child protection policies and services. AHC works with both patients and parents on child protection cases, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse and mental abuse towards children. Where possible, AHC supports familial settings as an alternative to institutional care as part of its Child Abandonment Prevention and Intervention Programme.
- Financial Support: AHC’s Social Work Unit provides financial support to families to help cover the cost of food, accommodation, transport, death, and other health expenses. A financial assessment is undertaken to see what capacity the family has to support themselves and their children.
- Social Services: AHC’s Social Work Unit provides a framework and support to families for external care. This includes legal, disability, psychology, and caretaker support. AHC works closely with partner agencies and organizations who help with these social services. One such example is the Foster Care Program, run in partnership with Kaliyan Mith (Friends International). This program is designed to find appropriate and safe families for children, ensuring children are kept out of orphanages and away from the issues they possess.
Other Social Work Programs/Projects:
Child Abandonment Prevention & Intervention Program. Considered a world leader in child protection, AHC’s Social Work unit works with families or caregivers who are at risk of abandoning their child at AHC or elsewhere; using patience and counselling to help families find long-term solutions to their problems of maintaining care of their child.
Medical Social Work Manual. Currently in development. The Medical Social Work Manual will outline all competencies, skills, and knowledge required to operate a successful medical social work program. This is the first of its kind in Cambodia, designed to be used throughout the country and wider region to train social workers.
UNICEF Clinical Handbook. AHC has worked in partnership with UNICEF to develop an instructional resource for addressing sexual and physical abuse towards children.
Angkor Hospital for Children is a member of Family Care First.
Number of employees:
AHC has over 500 employees, 98% of whom are local Cambodian staff.
Where They Work:
While AHC operates a pediatric hospital in the heart of Siem Reap, programmatic activities and the organization’s overall impact extends across Cambodia.
Prospect for new ideas and opportunities?
AHC’s Social Work Unit has a vast network of medical experts and partner organizations all over the world to call upon and share ideas. In country, we have a close relationship with government departments, other nongovernmental organizations, and educational institutions whom we collaborate with on a regular basis. With their support, we have developed the Medical Social Work Network. This connects health care providers in Cambodia to help each other reach the same ultimate goal. This acts as a broad forum for AHC to prospect and share new ideas. AHC also invites international volunteers who have invaluable social work experience to help develop our program. Our volunteers act as a great resource of knowledge and bring new ideas to our team.
Share your best wisdom with the world?
Nationally, AHC’s Social Work Unit is constantly promoting the need for medical social work within healthcare providers. Through ongoing relationships, and networks like the Medical Social Work Network, we are sharing ideas throughout Cambodia. The Royal Phnom Penh Hospital have recently started their own social work program with the help and guidance of AHC. We hope to continue developing this program and other such initiatives in the country. Internationally, AHC’s Social Work Unit has worked with centres in Laos to develop their skills and expertise in the field. We provide mentoring and coaching to their staff through workshops, regular visits, and constant communication.
Experiment and encourage innovation?
AHC’s Social Work Unit is fortunate to have a leadership team which supports us and understands the importance of the work we do. When ideas are first concepted, we strive to connect those initiatives with AHC’s core competences, aligned with our strategic goals. A culture of knowledge-sharing exists within the organization allowing us to feel confident in sharing our thoughts with the leadership team, which further encourages innovation. The Social Service Leaders Exchange Program is another way that AHC shares ideas and knowledge. Here, we learn from international healthcare providers about new ways to care for our patients. We in turn share our expertise while continuing to advocate the need for social work in Cambodia and the wider region.
Engage in reflection, re-assessment and redesign?
The nature of AHC’s Social Work Unit requires much collaboration between our team members. We meet regularly to discuss our cases; to reflect back on what worked well, and what didn’t, to plan for the ongoing work on the ground, and to help design our future social work program.
A great example of our work in reassessment and redesign within the Cambodian healthcare system are the new standards for social workers in Cambodia, which AHC has helped develop. With the support of local healthcare providers and NGOs, we have created new, more robust standards that an individual has to meet in order to act as a social worker in Cambodia. This will require them to obtain a formal degree in social work or psychology. We hope for these new standards to be in place very shortly.