Can Digital Tools Be Used to Improve the Work of Child Protection Professionals?

In my previous blog, I explored the possibilities for students and/or child protection professionals to design a simulation tool to identify and solve problems associated with the intervention, prevention and treatment of abuse. I want to expand upon that idea, but this time explore: Can digital tools be used to improve the work of child protection professionals?

As I look to expand upon this child protection approach, I reflected upon ISTE Standard 1.7 Global Collaborator. ISTE Standard 1.7 reads, “students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally”. I specifically chose to look at ISTE 1.7b, which reads, “students use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts or community members to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints”; and ISTE 1.7d, which adds, “students explore local and global issues and use collaborative technologies to work with others to investigate solutions”.

I discovered a 2020 UNICEF survey report, titled, Child protection: Digital Opportunities, Challenges and Innovations Across the Region. This survey aimed to “enhance understanding of the use of digital platforms for child protection and, in particular to examine if and how countries are moving from paper-based case management to online systems”, and “to explore how digital technologies have been used to increase communication, training, exchanges, and coordination among social work and social service providers”. The survey also looked to identify the innovations that have been introduced to overcome particular challenges related to the limitations and restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, “to support learning across the region, identify specific innovations that could be replicated and adapted in other countries, and identify trends and opportunities for efficiency gains through greater collective work and regional coordination”.

Using an example illustrating how the use of social media can be effective in identifying missing children, social workers who participated in this study were in general agreement that “digital technologies can enhance social work, sometimes in unexpected ways”. However, it was clear, through the feedback of those who engaged with this study, “that closer partnerships were needed between technology companies, employer IT departments, practitioners and service users to ensure systems reflect practice realities. Moreover, the design of a digital platform for case management or as a platform for interaction among social work professionals needs the collaboration of social workers from the beginning, so that they gain a sense of buy in and ownership, as well as confidence that the system will respond to the real needs of front-line workers”.

As it related to the specific findings of the use of digital platforms for child protection, the following trends were discovered:

  1. there was some progress in five countries (Azerbaijan, Croatia, Kyrgyzstan, Romania and Uzbekistan) in moving from paper based social work case management systems to online systems;
  2. online platforms were used in all countries to increase communication across social service providers and provide training, capacity building and mentoring; and
  3. there was support for the idea that a number of digital innovations to support child protection can increase cross-country learning

In a 2022 article, through the National Library of Medicine, titled, Professionals’ Digital Training for Child Maltreatment Prevention in the COVID-19 Era: A Pan-European Model, author Paul B. Tchounwou notes that “the responsiveness of professionals working with children and families is of key importance for child maltreatment early identification”. The article highlights “a digital approach to child maltreatment training through the ERICA project experience (Stopping Child Maltreatment through Pan-European Multiprofessional Training Programme). ERICA was piloted during the pandemic in seven European centers involving interconnected sectors of professionals working with children and families”. Findings from this study note that “through technological developments, digital platforms seem promising in dealing with new challenges for professionals’ training”. The study design did not firmly conclude the superiority of an e-learning approach, however did suggest that “an e-learning approach seems suitable for both traditional and novel learning frameworks because of the interactive properties of advanced technology, even during pandemic times”. The study did conclude that, “this promising approach may represent an engaging option that emphasizes the strengths of e-learning under certain circumstances, i.e., a valid alternative when more traditional learning is limited by a range of different measures that prevent to carry out face-to-face educational activities”.

I believe these resources apply to ISTE Standard 1.7 Global Collaborator because they examine the use of digital technologies and platforms to enrich the learning of child protection professionals from various countries within specified regions of the world. These surveys account for the digitalization of social work case management, noting that “there is a willingness to consider sustaining and even expanding online training alongside the traditional face-to-face approaches”. These surveys account for digital technology as a tool for training, coaching or supervision during a pandemic. These surveys account for the provision of online services and access to professional support. And these surveys account for thematic use of digital tools to support child protection, including hotlines similar to the one I manage for Childhelp.

References: 

Collins, Emily. (2022). Using Simulations to Revolutionize Child Protection. Retrieved from University of Kent. https://www.kent.ac.uk/knowledge-exchange-innovation/case-studies/558/using-simulations-to-revolutionise-child-protection

Tchounwou, Paul. (2022). Professionals’ Digital Training for Child Maltreatment Prevention in the COVID-19 Era: A Pan-European Model. National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8796023/

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