Contribution of area advisory councils in child Protection: case study of Kitui County, Kitui West District
The Area Advisory Council has been in operation after the enforcement of the Children Act in March 2002. The overall objective of this study was to examine the contribution of Area Advisory Councils in child protection in Kitui West District. The study was conducted in Kitui County, Kitui West District in the Eastern Province of Kenya. The researcher purposively chose a district that is rural and also classified as semi-arid. Such an area could have unique challenges in bringing up children. The study findings will provide a basis for comparison with other regions - that could be classified as safer- for children welfare. The target population was community members, children aged 12-17 years, Area Advisory Council and community based structures established to deal with child protection issues and national level stakeholders. This study employed both quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection. Qualitative data were used to get community opinion on child protection. The primary data was collected through field work. The main method of data collection used was household interviews. A total of 120 household interviews were conducted, 7 key informant interviews and 2 Focus Group Discussions; 1 for Area Advisory Council members and 1 for children. The first objective was to assess the composition and roles of Area Advisory Council structures in regards to child protection as provided by Area Advisory Council guidelines. The study found that the community was aware of the Area Advisory Council structure and that the membership was okay as provided by the Area Advisory Council guidelines: They, however, noted that some challenges existed on among others, leadership, child participation and participation of members. The roles of the Area Advisory Council were also understood to be very basic and did not include services on prevention, protection and response to children issues which is important in the community. The study found that there was no link between Area Advisory Council in community and the national level structure, the National Council for Children Services. It was found that the inter-ministerial collaboration existed but wasn’t strong. xiii The second objective examined community awareness on child rights and how the key players have contributed to child protection. The research findings indicate that, the understanding of child protection at community level mainly focuses on provision of basic necessities such as provision of food which is different from the understanding at district level and national level by the District Children Officer and National Council for Children Services representatives respectively who had a broader understanding of Child protection. The third objective focused on examining how coordination mechanisms and resources in place have supported service delivery and handling of child abuse violations. The study revealed that the significance of Area Advisory Council in the community was acknowledged and was linked to the services they provided. It also revealed that child rights violations exist and are an issue of concern and that there are challenges in reporting and handling them. The fourth objective focused on assessing the challenges Area Advisory Council face and provide recommendations on how they can be addressed. It was noted that some community members do not know about children rights and the relevant laws. Additionally, the study found that the Area Advisory Council had no clear work plan and had no thematic working groups. Further, there was lack of adequate services such as rehabilitation schools and voluntary counseling services and challenges existed in reporting and responding to cases of child abuse. The study recommends implementation of more strategies which are community based to protect children since relying on Area Advisory Council structure alone was not adequate. This requires the government to work in close collaboration with the identified key players in the community. The report has also provided suggestions for future research.