A Child Protection System in Mongolia

Andy West - International Save the Children Alliance

Following the onset of economic and political change in Mongolia in 1990, a number of new risks and vulnerabilities for children developed. Responses to these problems were mainly undertaken by international and national non-government organisations and the problems and needs of child protection have been largely understood to focus on particular groups of children – street children, working children (in a variety of urban and rural circumstances) and children in conflict with the law. Services have been largely responsive and not proactive or preventative, and run by NGOs, who employ qualified social workers with responsibilities for working with marginalised and excluded children. The main frontline state service is the police, which has some links with NGOs but takes a legalistic approach, with powers to detain `unsupervised’ children under 16 years for up to14 days (1994 Law on the Temporary Detention of Unsupervised Children).

This current understanding of child protection ignores widespread underlying problems that affect many more children and are a cause of some of the issues noted above. These problems include abuse and violence within the family and within institutions, sexual abuse and exploitation and violence in communities, bullying abuse and violence in schools, discrimination against disabled children, and exploitative work in rural and urban areas. Some children affected by these problems enter the realm of NGO service provision by coming onto the street, but there is no active statutory service responsible for child protection. Designated posts of social workers exist in various government settings, but are generally responsible for large populations and/ or have other administrative duties that prevent them focusing on case work and child protection. These state services seem to be structured and focused for the pre-1990 era and have and not changed to reflect and respond to the new circumstances.

The three sections of this document are designed to address the development of a child protection service in Mongolia that is accountable, networked, and focused on children’s rights and best interests. Part I looks at problems of vulnerability and protection in Mongolia, including the context of general change in childhood, and the problem of using categories of children, such as street children, as a basis for analysis and making a response. The final two sections summarize vulnerabilities for children in Mongolia and the shortcomings of existing services. Part II looks at the problem of using the idea of `transition’ rather than ongoing change as a context for the development of services. International frameworks and theory of childhood for policy are briefly surveyed, particularly the importance of children’s rights, and the implications for practice discussed. Part III provides suggestions for moving forward to an essential child protection service, including community based mechanisms, deinstitutionalisation, and standards for quality care.

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