The current child protection system in Cambodia is a downstream model. The sector is dominated by NGOs investing the majority of resources and funds into the delivery of crisis services for children who have already experienced abuse, neglect or exploitation.
At first glance, a downstream model seems logical. If there are children being harmed, then it makes sense to focus efforts on getting them out of harm’s way. When the number of children in harm’s way grows, spending more funding on crisis interventions seems justified. However, there is a grave flaw in this design.
When the majority of funds and resources are invested in downstream interventions, a self-reinforcing dynamic is created that results in increasing numbers of children requiring crisis services.
When families are unable to access universal prevention services, like heath, education and housing, they become unnecessarily vulnerable and problems begin to arise. A lack of early intervention services that mitigate problems in families leads to intractable crises. These crises place children in situations where they experience significant harm and see them removed from their families and dependent on crisis services. The downstream approach is a band-aid response that never addresses the root-causes and perpetuates the problems it aims to solve.