Since its creation, First Step Cambodia has been providing therapeutic and social work services to child survivors of sexual abuse. With an annual caseload of over 100 children, we see more and more cases reaching the surface and children being correctly referred to us.
Counseling and Social Work support at First Step Cambodia
Our social workers provide regular counseling and therapeutic services to affected children across a period of (up to) 24 months and are always available to talk to children in times of need. In most cases, we are confronted with vulnerable families and poverty-related issues. We maximize children’s chances to recover from their experiences and aim to ensure they live in a safe and supportive home environment. We aim to increase families’ knowledge, involvement and capacity, and provide support in practical areas such as; access to education and health care.
Being the only service provider in Cambodia equipped and trained to provide specialist support to boys, a significant part of our caseload are boys and young men. Ages range from as young as 5 years old to 17 years old.
Today, the majority of referrals comes from our NGO partners, whose staff work directly with children. We are thankful to our partners for their dedication and positive collaboration with us.
Assessment and care Plan
Upon receiving notice of, or independently detecting, a potential case of child sexual abuse or sexually harmful behavior, our social workers conduct a thorough assessment of the child's current situation, personal history, family and home life, as well as their physical and emotional state.
This results in the development of a customized care plan that addresses seven thematic areas: the child's emotional health, physical health issues, shelter (safety) issues, behavioural issues, relationship issues, education, and legal needs.
Applying the socio-ecological model, the social worker regularly visits the child's community and home. He/she identifies the child's primary caregiver (supporter) and the family member who bears responsibility over the child which, in most cases, is the mother (family). Playing a key role in the life and well-being of the child, supporters and family become closely involved in providing appropriate support and care. To achieve this, a separate plan is developed to identify gaps in knowledge and capacity, and to determine further if social work services are required.
The Socio-Ecological Model - source: whise.org.au
A child may experience a range of challenges when we start our first sessions. Often, they are facing physical, behavioral and mental problems such as trauma, anxiety attacks and even injuries. More often than not, poverty-related and domestic issues such as alcohol abuse create an even more challenging context for children's recovery.
Through regular therapeutic sessions and home visits, our social workers use children's personal strengths to assist in finding solutions and ways to deal with the daily challenges. During these sessions, the child develops useful problem-solving skills and learns how to manage and release negative emotions. Children learn about age-appropriate sexual behavior and how to protect themselves from abuse.
Research into gender differences inform our approach to supporting boys and girls in the most effective manner.
social work support
The therapeutic needs of children are met through a combination of referrals to specialized partner organizations (for example, health checkups at the Angkor Hospital for Children), available support from the NGO that is already working with the child, and the use of our client assistance fund to fill the remaining gaps. Our services include but are not limited to; access to health care, education and vocational training, safe spaces and alternative care solutions, sports, nutrition, transportation costs and assistance in attending court sessions.
Working with the family and supporters, our social workers identify the essential changes needed in order to create a safe and supportive home environment for the child. We increase families' knowledge related to child abuse, and then build their capacity in caring for children and providing emotional support. We provide access to health care, income generation, vocational training and legal advice.
Slowly, we guide the child back to school and help to rebuild self-confidence and reconnect with friends, while improving the child's home environment together with the child's family and supporters.
Every three months, we review the progress made and adapt the care plans where necessary. On average, a child receives our support for 24 months before we can slowly start reducing our active involvement. In general, children return to school, find the confidence to reconnect and play with their peers, and rediscover their dreams and aspirations. Ideally, they feel they are supported by their environment and know what they can do to protect themselves in the future.
Our case studies show the efficacy of our methods. All names and locations have been altered for reasons of confidentiality.
Boy Survivor with shb
At 6 years old, Sopheak's harmful behaviors revealed his trauma as a victim of sexual abuse. (2018)