Due to her background in international child welfare, Professor Jini Roby has had the recent opportunity of spending some time in East London, South Africa, collaborating with Dr. Margie Maistry, a colleague in the Dept. of Social Work and Social Development at the University of Fort Hare in East London. For the last few of years, they have been studying the effects of the developmental approach to child welfare, the official methodology adopted by South Africa for Social Development. The project has been collecting data from children, social workers, and caregivers from which they generate conceptual frameworks and practice recommendations which they hope will help improve government operations and on-the-ground child welfare practice.
Two of their papers were presented at the IASSW/IFSW conference held in Durban in July 2008. Of her experience, Professor Roby reported “I had a wonderful time riding to the Durban conference in a small van with 12 students and faculty members from East London.” She stated she also enjoyed staying in a convent while they participated in the conference.
While in South Africa, Professor Roby was able to meet Vuvu, a social worker who works with over one hundred children at an institution in South Africa. Roby stated, “Vuvu is an extremely competent, caring, and resourceful social worker, and she makes a huge difference in the lives of the children she serves.”
Professor Roby is currently working in Cambodia as a UNICEF consultant to develop a system for the placement, review, and monitoring of children in alternative care.
Cambodia experienced twenty years of civil war and genocide, and has enjoyed peace only for the last few years. Throughout this time, over 550,000 children have lost one or both parents. Because of poverty (35%) and lack of employment opportunity, parents are abandoning their children at alarming rates as they migrate in search of jobs.
In addition, HIV/AIDS is taking hold very rapidly and children are losing parents and caretakers. As a result, many children are being absorbed into the kin system or within community care. Approximately 9,000 children are currently in institutions, and the number of institutions is growing rapidly. Tracking and reviewing the status of children in alternative care has become a national priority. This is especially due to the mass adoption of children from Cambodia and the mounting evidence of unethical and profiteering adoption activities by intermediaries and authorities.
Once the system Professor Roby is developing is in place, and once the international adoption legislation is finalized, Cambodia will have in place a comprehensive and holistic system of child welfare framework that is compatible with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Hague Convention and other international and domestic policies.
Professor Roby was chosen to provide this important consulting assistance to the Cambodian government through an international competitive process, due to her extensive work on child welfare issues around the globe.