The Necessity for Introducing Social Services for Children Who Use Drugs
Drug use among children is a complex and serious problem that demands involvement of numerous factors related to the policy makers, but also social, health and educational factors. It is an issue that requires a serious approach from competent ministries, the Ministry of Labour and Social Politics above all, and the Ministry of Health, into finding a way to include children users in treatment, rehabilitation, re-socialization and reintegration in society.
Social services have one aim. To offer support to the individual, the family and the group in general. Children’s social services are there to offer support towards a regular and normal psycho-physical development of every child. The child learns from its immediate surrounding at birth. Its inclusion in society is conditioned by numerous factors, primarily on the family, on the one hand, and the social factors, for instance peers, school and surrounding in general. Their positive influence determines the development of a healthy, mature person, however sometimes they can have negative impact on the child’s growth and development. An insufficient balance can cause the child to find itself at risk or faced with a certain social problem. In such cases, social services intervene and give the support and help needed to resolve the problem.
Civil society organizations and professionals have been alarming for years to the problem of children who use drugs.
Pursuant the Law on Children’s Protection and the signed international documents a child is defined as a person below the age of 18, as well as a person with physical and mental disability below the age of 26.
Drug use among children is a complex and serious problem that demands involvement of numerous factors related to policy makers, but also social, health and educational factors. It is an issue that requires a serious approach from competent ministries, the Ministry of Labour and Social Politics above all, and the Ministry of Health, into finding a way to include children users in treatment, rehabilitation, re-socialization and reintegration in society.
At present there are no such programs in Macedonia. Our country, being a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, pursuant Article 33, shall take all appropriate measures, including legislative, administrative, social and educational measures, to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
Social protection in Macedonia is regulated with the Law on Social Protection which refers to the system and organization of social protection, the rights pursuant social protection, funding and the procedure of realizing social protection rights.
According to Article 2 “Social protection is a system of measures, activities and policies for prevention and overcoming the basic social risks the citizen is exposed to during his/her lifetime, for reducing poverty and social exclusion and enhancing the capacity for his/her own protection. Carriers of social protection are the state, the City of Skopje, within their competences and pursuant the Law.”
Regarding the measures and activities stipulated by the Law for children who use drugs, Article 11 prescribes that local self-government units shall provide social protection for certain individuals at social risk, among whom are people who use drugs, other psychotropic substances, precursors and alcohol.
The Law on Social Protection fails to distinguish the category of children who use drugs. The Law prescribes measures and activities for people who use drugs, but does not specify whether these services and activities refer to children who use drugs as well.
Regarding extra-institutional protection, i.e. the right to receive day care, pursuant Article 31, the right to receive day care in a centre shall be extended to an individual who uses, i.e. misuses drugs and other psychotropic substances and precursors and to family members, among other listed vulnerable categories. This Article and the entire Law fails to recognize children who use drugs as a specific category and to clearly define whether services, measures and activities are designed and adjusted to children who use drugs and whether these measures and activities are tailored towards meeting the specific individual needs this category has.
A successful treatment of children who use drugs implies long-term and comprehensive treatment with inclusion of all relevant factors. First of all, the specific category of children who use drugs needs to be defined as a separate category, independent of all other categories of children under risk, with specific needs, prescribing specific social services, measures and activities. Furthermore, the social services, measures and activities for parents and family should be closely defined as well. Such social services would refer to solving a specific problem “here and now,” as well as to a series of measures and activities related to long-term treatment, care, inclusion in the education process and reintegration in society.
Social protection as a specific field requires constant adjustment and adaptation to users’ needs. Although not so long ago there was an initiative for reforms in the Macedonian social protection system, certain obstacles and weakness occurred that impacted, above all, the quality of the given services. Regarding the implementation of certain services, measures and activities prescribed by the Law on Social Protection, for years now, practitioners have been alarming that a major problem is the system’s structure. Professional services (social work centres mostly) predominantly work towards realizing the right to financial aid when social protection is concerned while disregarding social services.
In practice, we can discern a lack of certain services the Centre for Social Work should be offering. Specifically, users’ needs are insufficiently identified. In addition, professional services are faced with insufficient staff, certain problems aren’t handled with the appropriate level of gravity, human resources are managed inadequately, and the lack of education and training leads to lack of sensitized professional services towards a certain problem or an issue, specifically in the part of social services for children who use drugs. In this entire process of changes and transition, the focus was on extra-institutional protection with the introduction of several new forms of protection for certain categories of users of services, but at present there are no specifically defined social services directly for children who use drugs, and the existing ones offer no answer towards meeting the basic and individual needs of this category.
A broad spectre of social services needs to be developed with the cooperation of local institutions, organizations and civil society organizations and of course partnership is required among the state, business and the civil sector; it is still lacking in practice and its implementation needs to be further enhanced. Rgarding the creation of social services for children who use drugs, the starting point should be separating this from the remaining categories of children under risk as a category with specific needs. Furthermore, professional services working with children who use drugs should be sensitized specifically around this issue.
Social services have to be tailored pursuant children who use drugs in order to meet their basic living and health, social, educational and other needs. Every child is a singular and unique individual with specific and individual requirements. Social services have to be created specifically to meet the particular and individual needs of every child individually.