Being accredited as a Level 3 Center of Excellence is a euphoria for all the staff of the Home for Girls, even more so that after five years from its accreditation, the center was re-accredited last February of this year.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Field Office Caraga had an exuberant celebration on the 23rd of March 2016, as the Home for Girls finally received the Certificate for Level 3 Accreditation and was declared as the only Level 3 accredited center in the region.
Signed by Undersecretary Angelita Y. Gregorio-Medel, the Certificate of Accreditation was personally handed by former DSWD FO Caraga Regional Director Minda B. Brigoli to Center Head Fe Saumat during the Korambusan 2016 held at the Field Office Grounds of the Department.
The accreditation meant that the center had satisfactorily complied with the Third Level standards in the implementation of Residential-Based Programs and Services for Women and Children. Back in the day, Dir. Brigoli articulated her excitement upon having the accreditation, she was but glad that one of the Department’s centers received the highest standards making it exemplary.
Valid for five (5) years unless suspended or revoked prior to its expiration, this certification is in compliance with the provision of Section 23, Republic Act 4373 “An Act to Regulate the Practice of Social Work and the Operations of Social Work Agencies in the Philippines and for Other Purposes”.
Since 1997 and including its five (5) year Level 3 accredited period, the center has accommodated and provided appropriate services, protection, care, treatment, healing, and recovery to abused and exploited girls in the region aged 17 years and below. In the years of operation, all the staff of the Home for Girls is adopting and integrating all necessary and timely services to better serve its clients, and as each year passes all these staffs also know that the re-accreditation for the Level 3 center of excellence is a priority. For the past years, the Field Office has been getting ready for the re-accreditation, when March of the year 2020 came. All the preparations came to a bump when the pandemic shocked the world – COVID-19 happened.
A skeletal workforce was enforced due to the quarantine measures – only 50% of the personnel has to be present in the office. For some, the Work From Home scheme is a pleasant set-up. But for those working at the centers, it was quite a challenge given that the HFG was in full capacity.
“Lisod kaayo kay kinahanglan namong biyaan ang mga bata, unya kasagaran sa amoa dili man gyud ma bitbit ang trabahoon sa balay kay related man among functions sa direct activities sa mga bata (It was challenging for us since most of our duties here in the center needs face-to-face interaction with the children).” Says Cheril Q. Jorta, Manpower Development Officer II of the HFG. Her claim was strongly agreed upon by the rest of the staff especially the houseparents.
Given the situation, the duty of giving first-hand and direct supervision to the residents was very difficult especially for the houseparents says Sherlita Sausal, a houseparent at the HFG for over 15 years. Moreover, a major adjustment on the Work Financial Plan of the Center was made. Jowina Olorocisimo and Deza Marry Bonggo, both Administrative Personnel, decided to address this concern by proposing and conducting remote yet effective and unique activities to negate the possible pressure the residents may feel as they embark in the New Normal.
With the fleet changes in the New Normal, it was understood that the staff are experiencing a greater level of stress. Hence, a monthly stress debriefing activity was piloted. Cara Mae Ponte, a registered Psychometrician of the Center uttered that this activity, albeit combined with the monthly accomplishment meeting of the HFG, is quite helpful in making sure that every staff are in the same page of not just being physically healthy but mentally healthy as well.
Not only for the staff but the overall wellness of the residents was also never taken for granted, according to Nurse Sweedie Grace Supapo. She also ensured an effective plan with the medical service providers of the Center to make sure that the overall wellness of each resident is closely monitored.
Even the construction of the remaining structures of the center had no other option but to postpone. Luckily, as the adjustment period was loosening some protocols during the pandemic, everything ended pretty smoothly even with the presence of smattering construction workers, says Arch. Aimae Juanitas.
Along with the staff of the center, the residents were also facing a kind of stress they never had before. With the lack of involvement in the outside community and the limited activities they can do, some of the residents uncontrollably relapsed. Unlike before, all the residents were able to directly encounter their parents for a certain day of a month, however, when the New Normal happened, everything changed. From face-to-face schooling prohibited, to outdoor activities undone, certain residents began to manifest negative behavior says Cheryl Jen Pahal, Social Welfare Officer II of the Center.
“That’s when we explored Video Calls.” she added.
Although the changes were difficult, the residents and the staff find them effective. Eventually, the residents get to cope up with all of these changes and as all these changes continue to happen, residents were now showing positive responses to the changes. Expressive arts were added to better understand the feelings of the residents. Various modified activities were made into reality leading to the discovery of new competencies and skills that are still in need of development.
A Laderized program was utilized to implement different activities fit for the new normal. The program yielded good results. Some residents unfolded skills they never even thought they had before, for instance, some realized that they are good at cooking, the others realized they had a talent in cosmetics, even the toddlers learned that they are good at cleaning! Needless to say, the pandemic had its own way to unravel the hidden talents of the residents says HFG Focal Person, Marissa Garay.
What were once challenges, slowly became routinary to all the staff and residents. The worries for the re-accreditation slowly faded away, until the day came. The assessment was closely focusing on categories regarding Administration and Organization, Program Management, Helping Strategies and Interventions, Facility Management, and Case Management.
The accreditation was almost in the bag when a single indicator from the National Inspectorate’s modified Accreditation Assessment was raised – All Center’s security guards have to have a College Level Education. The HFG staff were surprised by the said indicator
“That day, we were only given two (2) options, to comply this criterion until August, which leaves us the option to dismiss our lady guards who have been with us for three (3) years now, or to accept that we will be re-accredited but as a Level 2 Center if not complied,” Garay shared.
Silence took over the room during the online meeting. Garay took a deep breath and freed a heavy sigh, but this time, her face was lit up with determination. That was the moment when she, together with the rest of the staff decided to find a way to resolve the issue.
Hours of brainstorming became days of researching, until a careful investigation and coordination with the Security Agency, they were finally led to Republic Act 5487 or the Private Security Agency Law, specifically stating under Rule V of Section 3 requiring only a high school graduate qualification. Without any delay, Garay wrote a letter to the panel.
“It was like a bitter-sweet ending,” Garay said.
With all the seeming dark clouds caused not only by the Pandemic but as well as their journey towards the re-accreditation, the Home for Girls of DSWD FO Caraga chose to look closely into the silver lining. With the problem they faced, came a victory that was needed.
As the Home for Girls still enjoying its Level 3 Center of Excellence Accreditation, this safe haven for girls will continue to offer quality healing and recovery services to all exploited and abused girls in the region. The Home for Girls also opens its doors to professionals, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) or Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) who wish to become friends of the center. For inquiries, you may contact the official hotlines of the Center: Telephone numbers (085) 342-5619/5620 or 226-5127; Mobile Numbers 09514590950 or 09770434751; Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org .