Rescue of Street Children

Bahay Tuluyan has been working on improving "rescue" practices for street children since 2006.

'Rescue' of street children is defined as the act of a government agency physically removing a child from the street for the stated purpose of child protection. Bahay Tuluyan began looking into the issue of 'rescue' as a concern when it became clear that children on the street understood 'rescue' to mean 'huli' which translates as 'arrest' or 'catch'.

In 2008 and 2009 Bahay Tuluyan conducted studies into the practice of rescue in the cities of Caloocan, Manila, Pasay and Quezon Cities. The results were recorded in a book entitled 'Sagip or Huli? Rescue of Street Children in Caloocan, Manila, Pasay and Quezon Cities'. A total of 599 children and 114 rescuers were interviewed, documenting more than 600 cases of rescue. The research found that rescue, as currently practiced in the target cities is:

Indiscriminate

Rescue operations fail to consider the individual needs and circumstances of street children;

Involuntary

The vast majority of street children interviewed and surveyed did not want to be rescued according to current practices;

Harmful

Rescued children face a number of violations to their most basic rights, both as humans and as children, throughout nearly all stages of rescue operations;

Ineffective

Generally, rescues not only fail to alleviate the problems faced by children in need of special protection, but also exacerbate such problems from a more long term perspective.

The research made the following general findings:

  • Rescue is being carried out by too many authorities, without coordination or clear objectives. There is a lack of accountability and training. There is a need to rationalize the roles of agencies involved in child protection and rescue and ensure appropriate training for all people involved.
  • There is a lack of consistent and clear policy guiding rescue operations leading to gaps in implementation and breaches of existing laws.
  • Rescue operations are frequently carried out indiscriminately and for reasons other than child protection. The best interests of the child are often secondary to other concerns. Rescuers are frequently unclear about their objectives in conducting rescue and therefore use inappropriate intervention techniques. This unnecessarily criminalizes, stigmatizes and traumatizes children.
  • Rescue operations as currently practiced in the cities of Caloocan, Manila, Pasay and Quezon are failing to protect children from abuse and exploitation and are sometimes exposing them to these. Children's rights are violated at nearly all stages of the process.
  • There is an overall lack of monitoring of the rescue process that is caused by the absence of an adequate system and also a failure to recognize the problems. An independent complaints mechanism is not available or accessible to rescued children.
  • Rescue as is currently practised is an ineffective intervention for street children because it fails to address the root causes.

Finally, the research study came up with a comprehensive list of recommendations for the improvement of services to street children in the three cities and throughout the Philippines.

In summary, these recommendations called for:

  • A revision of laws and policies applicable to rescue to ensure that rescue practices are rights based, child friendly and transparent.
  • The design of programs for street children that focus on prevention, protection and rehabilitation, addressing root causes and keeping the best interests of the child as a paramount consideration.
  • Ensuring that all people involved in child protection and rescue are equipped with the appropriate skills and knowledge

In 2009 in direct response to Bahay Tuluyan's study, the Department of Social Welfare and Development launched new Standards for Community Based Services for Street Children (DSWD AO. 08, series of 2009).

In 2012 the Council for the Welfare of Children released a Protocol for the Reach Out to Street Children which was also triggered by Bahay Tuluyan's research.

Bahay Tuluyan continues to work to ensure that all government actions towards children are conducted in a manner that respects children's rights.

Download a copy of the report click here.

For more information about this research study please email Bahay Tuluyan at info@bahaytuluyan.org.

Watch a video released about the study below.

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