2021 Semi-Annual Report on the Operation of the SOS Helpline for Children and Youth
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The operation of the SOS helpline is firmly grounded in the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which emphasize children's rights to privacy and protection against injury. The purpose of the SOS helpline for children and youth is to provide support to children in need, to provide a forum for sharing information and support, advocacy and lobbying support, promoting the rights of the child and promoting the SOS line as a medium for supporting children.
Megjashi is a member of the global network of SOS lines, Child Helpline International (CHI), and uses the methodology of network records in its work. Megjashi participates in the annual surveys conducted by CHI among its members, on the basis of which it then prepares a report that can serve as an argumentative tool for advocating for children's rights before governments, as well as for improving the operation of the helplines, members of the network.
summary of REPORTS
During the first half of 2021, a total of 151 cases (reports) were resolved on the SOS helpline for children and youth. With these cases, additional contacts have been made in order to be in constant communication and to keep up with the events in solving the problem.
A total of 223 children and young people were covered by the reports, 99 of which were boys, 100 girls, and the gender of 24 children is unknown. Compared to the first half of 2019 (50 reports) and 2020 (115), the number of reports has increased three times compared to 2019, i.e. by one third compared to 2020.
Number of reports/cases
Number of children included in the reports/ cases
Number of feedbacks made with the reports
This year the administrative (fixed) number of the Children's Embassy Megjashi was the most frequently used communication channel as well, 133 reports were received, to be more precise.
Most of the children or 197 live in urban areas, and 20 children live in rural areas, for 6 it is unknown. The number of callers from rural areas, as in previous years, remains very low compared to the number of callers from urban areas. Possible reasons for this may be the lack of information of people living in rural areas about the rights of children, the manner and procedure for their protection, as well as insufficient promotion of the SOS helpline in these areas. Among the reasons is, surely, the fact that most of the population lives in an urban environment.
For 223 children there is a possible violation of one or more children's rights. The most common violations refer to the category of family relations (violation of the child's right to see one parent during divorce proceedings and non-compliance with the decisions of the centres for social work), followed by reports of violations of the child's rights in violence (peer violence (bullying), physical violence, mental/emotional violence, neglect, sexual violence). In third place in frequency is the violation of the right of access to institutions, social, health care and other services, followed by problems related to mental health, school and physical health. In most of the reports, the reported problem is complex and can be registered in several categories, so the number of children affected by the problem category is greater than the number of children covered by the reports because one child is counted in more than one category in which the problem is registered.
The first most common violations of the rights of the child according to the category of the problem to which the report refers
The recurrence of violation of the right to see both parents continuously in the past few years and its persistence on the top of the problems reported on the SOS helpline is one of the reasons why the Children's Embassy Megjashi together with the Ombudsman used to provide and continues to provides support to the Initiative for Joint and Shared Parenting and their activities. We are particularly concerned about the alienated child syndrome that occurs in children of divorced parents, as it has serious consequences for the development of these children and their personality. Closely related to this problem is the problem of child abduction by one of the divorced parents, a problem that for the first in a long time was reported several times on the SOS helpline in the first half of 2021. The Children's Embassy Megjashi has long lobbied and advocated for the implementation of the Hague Convention on the Civil Legal Aspects of International Child Abduction, which Macedonia signed in 1991. Therefore, in cases of abduction of children by one parent, the authorities are obliged to act in accordance with the Convention and thus contribute to the respect of the best interests of the child.
Activities undertaken in relation to finding a solution to the problems expressed in the reports are mainly the following: recommendations, referrals to law enforcement bodies, referrals to other institutions in the country or abroad, referrals to school counsellors and direct interventions.
During the undertaking of activities for solving the problems, contacts and cooperation were established with other organizations, services and institutions and for the most part the cooperation was successful and a solution was found. During acting upon and providing support, the SOS helpline team often cooperated with the centres for social work, especially with the Intervention Team at the Skopje Centre, as well as the centres from other cities, the Sector of Interior Affairs, schools, the Association of Young Lawyers, the Coalition for Fair Trial, First Family Centre as well as other stakeholders and organizations to provide better and more effective support to callers.
When it comes to organizational case management, our primary goal is the best interests of the child, i.e. the actions should be vital in making decisions and implementing activities that apply to each child individually, but also to a specific group of children. The principle of best interests of the child is a general principle that in the broadest sense of the word leads to the well-being of the child. The SOS team is composed of different profiles of people: psychologists, lawyer, criminologist, pedagogue, social worker and from recently a volunteer - special educator. This team diversity gives us the opportunity to consider each case individually from several aspects and to find the best solution to solve it.
With our many years of experience in cooperating with the centres for social work, we had the opportunity to see that the huge number of cases and insufficient number of human resources that should be involved in actively managing and monitoring a case is the key issue in untimely treatment and protection of children. An additional problem is the lack of appropriate training of employees in dealing with children and what are the measures that the centre has in its competence. We are always open for cooperation, guidance and support that could help improve the situation.
You can download the full report on the website of the First Children's Embassy Megjashi.
online SURVEY on habits and manners of communication of children and young people when seeking advice
Directed to continuously improve the work of the SOS helpline for children and youth and to get closer to this target group, the Children's Embassy Megjashi occasionally conducts surveys about the attitudes and opinions of young people about its work. During April and May 2021, an online survey of a sample of children and young people aged 11 to 18 was conducted about the habits and preferred manners of communication when seeking advice, the areas in which that need advice and support, as well as topics from their interest.
The questionnaire was answered by 431 students, 114 of which were Albanians and 317 Macedonians (female 247, male 177), 287 parents, 214 of which were female and 69 male, 195 Macedonians and 92 Albanians and 113 teachers, 45 of which were Albanians and 68 Macedonians. Most of them were females (91).
More than half of the students were informed about the existence of the SOS helpline for children and youth, and almost no one was in acquaintance with someone who called on the helpline. And the willingness of students to call the same helpline is really low because they think they have no need, and they feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger.
Online teaching is the most common problem for students at the moment, but they are not unfamiliar with sleep problems, feelings of sadness and anxiety.
If students need to ask for help for a problem and call the SOS helpline for children and youth, it would be the easiest for them to write a message on FB and Instagram, as well as a text message.
To call the SOS helpline, students need to be aware of the following: to know that it is safe, to know that they will talk to experts, to have their personal data protected, as well as to know that they are calling someone who can really help them.
Most of the surveyed parents are aware of the existence of the SOS helpline for children and youth, they are that their child never called it, just as they themselves never did. Nearly two-thirds would encourage their child to call the SOS helpline if needed, but there are still a significant percentage of parents who said they would not encourage it. As the most common obstacle that parents think children/young people would have in asking for help and using such an SOS helpline for children and youth, is fear (of possible consequences) and embarrassment (of the environment, of friends), lack of information and ignorance of existence on such a line, self-doubt and lack of courage, mentality and prejudices, as well as the pressures from the environment and the distrust they have towards adults in general.
Most of the teachers from the Macedonian schools are aware that there is an SOS helpline; the teachers from the Albanian schools are almost divided in terms of their awareness of the existence of the helpline. Only one teacher knows a student who called for help on the SOS helpline, and more than ¾ teachers are willing to direct students to call the helpline. The most common reasons given by teachers why students would not call the SOS helpline are the following: lack of information, fear, embarrassment, mistrust, prejudice, lack of courage. None of the teachers asked for help from the SOS helpline in cases when they have noticed a problem with any of the students. However, a larger number (60%) expressed readiness to call if they notice a problem that they would be unable to solve.
Teachers' recommendations for the SOS helpline:
“The SOS helpline should be publicly available on all social networks and in prominent places in cities, schools, cafes, etc. A mobile application can also be developed for greater and faster availability."
"I think it would be good to have more frequent questionnaires for teachers, students, parents on certain topics."
"I think an SOS helpline is a good idea and would work well in the future to support young people."
"Open an SOS information website as soon as possible to help children as soon as possible."
This survey is part of the project "Let's take the rights into our own hands", in partnership with Save the Children Kosovo, which is financially supported by the Government of Sweden.
The survey was conducted by Prof. Eleonora Serafimovska PhD and Prof. Mariana Markovic PhD, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University, ISPPI, Psychological Laboratory.
SEMI-ANNUAL REPORT ON THE WORK OF THE CHILDREN’S EMBASSY MEGJASHI’S SOS HELPLINE FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH (January - June 2021)