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Civil society–government partnership leads to a child helpline in Moldova

December 19, 2014

Within weeks of its June 2014 launch, the Moldova National Child Helpline 116111 received more than 50 phone calls. Children and parents used the toll-free number, available from any fixed or mobile network, to report cases of domestic violence, behavioral problems in school-aged children, cases of child homelessness and conflicts with peers and parents. Seven psychological consultants provided free services to the callers.

The introduction of the helpline represents a significant milestone for Moldova, and not just because it provides unprecedented access to a much-needed service for parents and children. It is the first time a public institution in Moldova has delegated the provision of a social service to a civil society organization (CSO).

A new legal mechanism that allows a CSO to partner with the government to provide services made the helpline possible. The International Women Rights Protection and Promotion Center (La Strada) and Moldova’s Ministry of Labor, Social Protection and Family signed an agreement to create the helpline.

Efforts to make this type of partnership possible have been underway for some time. With support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), FHI 360 has been partnering with the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law and other key actors since 2010 to assess and improve the regulatory environment governing CSO engagement in public service provision. To build support, FHI 360 shared lessons learned and best practices on the implementation of social contracting models in other countries with local CSOs and government representatives in Moldova. These efforts culminated in the adoption in Moldova of the Law on Social Services in 2011 and the Law on Accreditation in 2012, which allowed non-state actors to provide contract social services. 

“The state needs partnerships with civil society to successfully prevent and combat violence and various forms of child abuse,” said Valentina Buliga, the minister of Labour, Social Protection and Family. The Minister expressed her confidence that this first experience in subcontracting with a non-state social services provider will be a positive one, paving the way for long-lasting collaboration. 

The helpline, open 24 hours every day, provides children with a unique opportunity to talk about the issues directly affecting them. 

“... Children … parents, caregivers or anyone who would seek help when a child needs assistance will benefit from the services of the Child Helpline 116111,” said Daniela Misail-Nichitin, head of La Strada. “Consultants will provide psychological counseling to at-risk children, as well as to parents and caretakers in difficult situations.” 

La Strada will continue to provide the helpline until the end of 2016.