Child Protection Efforts in the Time of COVID-19: Understanding Effective Casework Practices and Policy Wins During the Pandemic (Research Report)

Child protection efforts encountered unique challenges, and found new solutions, during the pandemic. A research report by International Justice Mission (IJM), released on July 23, 2021, analyzes collaborative casework practices on online sexual exploitation of children and relevant policies applied during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and provides recommendations for child protection in the “new normal.”

Child Protection Efforts in the Time of COVID-19: Understanding Effective Casework Practices and Policy Wins during the Pandemic examines 23 rescue-related case studies and reviews relevant policies created and issued by the Philippine government.

The 57-page report highlights the trauma-informed behavior displayed by government frontliners in the fight against livestreamed child sexual exploitation; and the increased use of electronic inquest, remote testimony, and videoconferencing hearings.

Aside from strict adherence to health and safety protocols during rescue operations, the report provides guidance on policy, training, technology, law enforcement, prosecution, and aftercare. Among the paper’s key recommendations to uphold child protection during a pandemic are:

  • Extend the availability of electronic inquest to all areas of the Philippines, applicable even after the pandemic.
  • Pilot test remote testimony facilities to maximize the Supreme Court Guidelines on Videoconferencing.
  • Rely on victim testimony-independent evidence (such as chatlogs, and other digital evidence, etc.) in case build up.
  • Continue the good practice of law enforcement and aftercare coordination.
  • Support and optimize training events that increase opportunities for immediate application.

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“We at IJM commend our partners from the Philippine government – law enforcers, aftercare service providers, prosecutors and other frontliners of the criminal justice system – for persevering in their child protection mandate amidst the risks and challenges posed by the pandemic… IJM is pleased to document mutual learnings and best practices drawn from our collaborative work. We encourage wider adoption of these practices to uphold the best interest of the child during the pandemic and beyond.”

Atty. Lawrence Aritao
Director of IJM Philippines’ National Prosecution Development

The Philippine Department of Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay Villar, Undersecretary in-charge of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, stated: “With the health crisis still present and with no clear end in sight, a new range of challenges has arisen, adding new layers of concerns to the current child protection efforts being implemented in the country. As we are gradually learning the ramifications brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing remains clear: that our work of bringing justice to victim-survivors of online sexual exploitation of children and trafficking will not stop. Ensuring that child protection efforts remain unimpeded entails a range of responses that encompasses the entire criminal justice system. As this paper has outlined, effective casework must be anchored by sound policies issued by relevant Philippine authorities.”

During the lockdown period in 2020, Philippine justice agencies and child protection stakeholders rescued at least 136 victims, apprehended 30 suspects, and obtained 18 convictions (five of which were achieved via videoconferencing hearings).

About International Justice Mission:

IJM is a global organization that protects people in poverty from violence. IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems. |