|

Child and Family Service Philippines (CFSPI) is a non-stock, not-for-profit, non-sectarian Filipino non-government organization based in Baguio. It was co-founded in 1987 by Patti J. Lyons, then-president and chief executive officer of Family Service Hawaii, and Daniel Z. Urquico, a community leader and Baguio entrepreneur involved in real estate development. Currently, it operates in Baguio City and Naguilian, La Union, as well as in Bantayan, Northern Cebu for Project HOPE Typhoon Yolanda Rebuilding and Recovery.

According to Urquico, CFSPI’s vision is a Philippines teaming with “healthy children and women, who achieve their full potential, nurtured by caring families and living in safe, enabling and resilient communities”. The organization also aims to “enable children, women and families in especially difficult circumstances to achieve normal levels of development, uphold their rights, access social and economic opportunities and build their resiliency to protect themselves and their communities and to overcome adverse situations”. Its primary beneficiaries are abused and exploited children and youth; youth in conflict with the law (YICL); and teenage single mothers who are at risk of abuse and whose children are also at risk of neglect.

CFSPI’s first project began in 1987 with a street children program at St. Mary’s, a former retreat house of the Archdiocese of Vigan, which initially housed 40 boys and girls. CFS Hawaii provided the startup funds until Consuelo Zobel Alger, one of the matriarchs of the Zobel de Ayala clan, learned of their work in Baguio and began to contribute unstintingly. She eventually bequeathed her entire wealth as her legacy to children and families, both in Hawaii and the Philippines, under the aegis of the Consuelo Zobel Alger Foundation.

Although Baguio is CFSIP’s home base, it has assisted children of tobacco farmers in Ilocos Sur, relocated 300 Aeta families in Zambales during the Pinatubo crisis, and is now building schools in Bantayan Island in Northern Cebu for youngsters affected by Typhoon Yolanda.
CFSPI is governed by a 10-person Board of Directors, all volunteers, and is staffed by two senior directors with Master of Social Work and Child Development degrees. It also has 28 regular and eight contractual staff, as well as local and foreign volunteers. It has tied up with University of Hawaii’s School of Social Work and co-manages internship programs with the School of Social Work of Saint Louis University.

CFSPI adapted and improved on another social technology, the Life Skills Plus Program, introduced to Consuelo by the International Youth Foundation and adapted to the Philippine setting. Through the efforts of a German volunteer, Klaus Swartz, and his wife, Uta, of the German Development Program, a juvenile justice program was launched. With the Consuelo Foundation and Rotary International’s support, the Consuelo Life Skills Center in eastern Baguio was established. There, Urquico says: “We adapted the life skills program for youth in conflict with the law, as one of two skills sets, the other being vocational and technical training.”

Life skills are those that significant for building the traits necessary for effective social interaction and success in relationships, in work and in life. These include confidence, competence and connectedness. In most instances, particularly in the “normal” upbringing of children, these skills are learned at home, or in school, and even from peers. In a situation where there is lack of parental education or even parental supervision, many of these life skills necessary for success are missing.

These include complex skills such as leadership, life planning and goal setting, resolving conflicts, verbal and written communication, and reproductive health. It also includes what often are thought of as simple skills such as writing a resume, work ethics and behavior in the workplace, table manners, personal hygiene and even answering phone calls.

Says Urquico: “Most youth who get in conflict with the law are usually out-of-school youth, from low-income families, who most often lack education and fail to instill a sense of discipline. With Life Skills training, we demonstrate to these young men and women that we care for them and their future, and that we are willing to invest our time and the Foundation’s resources, in making sure they have a second chance to succeed in life and become productive and contributing members of their communities and families.
“We couple life skills with either in-house vocational skills training in carpentry, masonry or welding, or a combination of the three. These three skills assure them of employment, since the building industry is always in need of skilled labor. For those who have the aptitude, we also have a scholarship program supported by the Smidth Foundation of Germany, so they can finish other longer term vocational courses or even a college degree. We help them complete ALS, or the Accelerated Learning Program of the public school system, so that they can enter college. We have teachers, social workers and criminology graduates, most who are gainfully employed.

“It is the combination of caring, teaching and healing services, which includes family therapy, group and individual counselling, that provide social impact. Without compassion and commitment, Life Skills is just another capacity building program. When we started the Juvenile Justice Network program under Klaus Swartz and Ray Dean Salvosa, former President of CFSPI, and now President of the Cordillera University, there were 36 to 40 youth below 18 years old in the Baguio City Jail. Today, if one visits, there are probably only five or six youth inmates.”
CFSPI also runs the Consuelo Home, under its Protective and Recovery Program for Child Abuse, which helps girls ages five to 18 years to recover from various traumas. All services, Urquico says, are similar, following a caring, healing and teaching framework that guides the development of the organization’s goals and monitors the implementation of services. The staff determines if a survivor of abuse that was referred to them can be given these services in the context of the family or community, or, considering safety issues, requires her removal from the family or community. Only then is a child accepted as a resident of the Consuelo Home.

Urquico adds: “Building the skills, capacity and ability of CFSPI’s clients, and most youth in difficult circumstances to regain self-esteem and dignity, can be partially achieved by enabling them to attend and successfully graduate from good, well-designed vocational training programs. The hotel and restaurant business is booming all over the world, and there is a great demand here and abroad for chefs, cooks, waiters, bartenders and other professionals and paraprofessionals to serve the industry. This is a great opportunity, specifically since CFSPI has the facilities in its Leadership Training Center in Baguio, and has a board member – restaurateur Mitos Yñiguez – who is very interested in setting up a culinary arts center.