4. Developing creative partnerships
Finally, our scoping suggests a pressing need for partnerships when it comes to addressing EFH in adolescence. This is particularly relevant to asylum-seeking adolescents due to the wide range of agencies and organisations involved in safeguarding this group of young people. As our scoping indicates, responses to extra-familial harm are fragmented across different statutory agencies, non-governmental and volunteer organisations. The UK faces a similar challenge, where competing legislation and practice frameworks can promote both the criminalisation and safeguarding of adolescents who are harmed in contexts beyond their families, and this can create ambiguity about which agencies take the lead on issues such as youth violence and exploitation.
In Europe, civil society organisations (including larger NGOs and community organisations) tend to lead on service delivery, particularly in offering child protection services to young people affected by trafficking. Illustratively, a significant proportion of the European research relating to adolescent extra-familial risk is funded by NGOs and private organisations.
In Germany, civil-society organisations appear to be key partners for public authorities, providing a wide range of services such as legal guardianship, language courses or vocational training. The rise in volunteering for refugees and unaccompanied minors has even been described by some authors as a new social movement in Germany. However, this has also been met with concern regarding the quality of service provision and has led municipalities to develop new governance tools that aim to strengthen cooperation between professional social workers and volunteers. Municipalities are also experimenting with new forms of participatory governance providing opportunities for young refugees to co-design services. Contextual Safeguarding could be used as a framework to bridge the various forms of support provided to asylum-seeking adolescents – including more ‘informal’ civil society initiatives. What would partnerships between statutory agencies and voluntary and community organisations look like? Given the importance of civil-society organisations in the German child protection system, the German context has no doubt much learning to offer to Contextual Safeguarding about partnership working.
We are currently in the process of partnering with a service delivery organisation in Germany to run a pilot intervention to explore and support the adolescents they engage to be safer in extra-familial contexts. The pilot will run from June to November 2022. It will be supported and tracked by the research team. We hope that learning will inform policy makers and professionals in Germany, and the development of an international framework for Contextual Safeguarding in contexts beyond the UK.