Because of their young age, the law gives children more protection than adults therefore creating a special regime of child rights. There are several Government agencies created to promote and protect the rights of children. The main government agency in charge of children affairs is the Probation office which is a department of the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.
Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development – Probation Services
The Probation Office, is the government department that has the powers to help people solve problems related to family issues and children’s matters. The problems brought to the probation office are handled by trained social workers. They handle many issues like domestic violence or family misunderstandings between couples.
What does the Probation Office do?
The work of the probation office is to ensure the improvement of the welfare and rights of children, their protection and overall development. The probation office handles matters related to the family, specifically matters that involve vulnerable groups such as children and their families.
Probation work is carried out by Probation or Welfare Officers found at district levels. At the sub-county level, the Community Development Officers (CDO’s) are charged with responsibilities relating to children and family matters.
Types of Cases Handled by a Probation Office
The Probation Office works on cases concerning women and children, and some matters affecting married people. Such cases concern the following issues:
- Children in need of care and protection, as a result of gross neglect, failure to provide basic requirements, educational needs parental guidance, defilement, abandoned children who need resettlement, a parental dispute over a child and child labor;
- Custody of the child (which parent or relative has the right to keep the child);
- Maintenance of children in situations where parents are separated;
- Arbitration or negotiation on matters related to children;
- Inheritance of property for children;
- Family misunderstandings and drug abuse cases;
- Cases of children who have committed crime;
- Cases of child labor; and
- Other cases on children that must be reported to the Probations Office or Police such as early girl-child marriages, and early pregnancies which is evidence of defilement.
Where to find the probation office?
All districts have a department for Probation Services. The Probation Officer sits in the Community Development Office and doubles as the Community Development Officer (CDO). Although it is advisable to seek help from the nearest Social Worker / Probation Officer at the village level, a person can still report his or her case at the district level. However, the Probation Officer at the district level can return the case to the local Social Worker / Probation Officer at the village level.
At the village level, you can first go to your L.C. 1. The Vice Chairperson handles children’s matters. At the village level, you can also report your case to the Para Social Worker. Para Social Workers are trained on probation issues and family matters and are found in all sub-counties.
If the LC1 or the parasocial worker is unable to handle our case they will send you to the Probation Officer at the parish or sub-county level or district level. At the district level the CDO works on referrals from L.C.1 structures, complainants normally come with an introductory letter from L.C1 or a Parasocial Worker. People who are based in the town centers can look for the CDO at the division level.
What happens when cases are referred from one office to another?
There are several approaches to reporting a case with a Probation Officer.
You can either start at the village level, parish or at the sub-county level where there is a CDO who acts as the Probation Officer. You can go directly to the Probation Office at th e district level. If you have a probation matter you can jump all the mentioned levels and take your case straight to the district, the most important thing is for you to get help. You do not have to stick to the standard procedures of starting to report your case at the LC1 or with the Parasocial Worker.
Para-social Workers trained by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development are found at the village level. They are the first category of social workers that can help in matters related to children or family disputes. Cases can also be taken to the LC1. The local LC I should have all the contact telephone numbers and know the location of the Para-social Worker. If the Para-Social Worker or the LC 1 is unable to resolve the case, s/he will normally refer it to the CDO at the sub-county level.
It is also possible to report a case to the Parish Chief. The Parish Chief can also refer cases to the CDO. There is a Protection Committee at all parish levels composed of seven members who are child rights advocates. Probation cases can also be reported to this Committee. The LC I should have all the contact telephone numbers and know the locations of all the members of the Protection Committee.
Procedure for reporting your Case at the Probation Office
Step 1: Your case is registered at the probation office, you will be asked;
- Your name,
- Your village, and
- The exact facts of your case or the complaint you have. These will be recorded by the probation officer.
Step 2: Your case will be registered in the case management book and the action to be taken will also be noted. It is important for you to agree and know what action the probation officer will take. A file is then opened containing your details and statement.
Step 3: The Probation Officer calls the person who has been reported to come to his or her office.
Step 4: The person appears before the Probation Officer who hears the case and makes a decision on the course of action to take.
Duties of Probation and Welfare Officers
Probation and Social Welfare Officers play a very important role in the protection of the rights and welfare of children not only in criminal matters but also in civil matters.
These roles include:
- Attending court in cases involving children;
- Carrying out inquiries about children as required by courts;
- Submitting social inquiry reports for the courts especially about child offenders and child protection cases;
- Supervision of probationers and children;
- Supervision of young people after release from the National Rehabilitation Centres;
- Supervision of Approved Children and Babie’s Homes;
- Tracing, resettlement, and follow-up of Children from Children’s and Babie’s Homes;
- Investigating reports about abuse of children and taking steps to protect them;
- Supporting families or children in difficult circumstances;
- Sensitising communities on matters concerning childcare and protection;
- Creating systems or mechanisms for the care and protection of vulnerable children;
- Providing a link between Non-governmental Organizations engaged in child welfare programs; and
- Providing professional information about childcare and protection.
Frequently Asked Questions ( AQ)
Question: Can the probation office provide food for my children?
Answer: No, while the Probation Office works to support children it, unfortunately, does not have that kind of money to support the feeding of children.
Question: I need help, my husband has left us? How can the probation office help me?
Answer: The probation officer can help you by summoning your husband to the office to answer as to why he has neglected his parental duty.
Question: Can a Probation Officer connect us to a sponsor?
Answer: This depends on whether the Probation Officer has such contacts. In some cases, the Probation Officer may not have such information. But where they do they will provide that information to you or refer to an organization that renders such services.
Question: Who will meet expenses for DNA tests?
Answer: The Probation Office does not have money to meet the expenses of DNA, the complainant has to meet the costs.
Question: Can the Probation Office sponsor my child for a scholarship?
Answer: No the Probation Office does not have funds for this but there are Non- governmental Organisations that could be contacted for help.
Question: I am fed up with this child, Can I take this child to Kampiringisa?
Answer: It is only a specific category of children who are taken to remand homes. The Probation Office can help to counsel the child, as they assess the issues facing the child.
Question: Can the Probation Office counsel my husband?
Answer: Yes the Probation Office can counsel couples.
Question: Can the Probation Office give me money to go back to my village?
Answer: No. the Probation Office has limited funds. It, therefore, does not have funds to cater for people’s transport back to their villages.
Question: How long will the Probation Officer take to hear my case?
Answer: Usually it does not take long. The case should be handled within one month.