The exploitation of children as soldiers in the Philippines : an analysis of issues and challenges in social work practice : a thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Social Work at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
This study aims to explore and analyze how social workers directly working with child soldiers perceive the child soldier phenomenon in the Philippines. Specifically, it aims to come up with a picture of the child soldier phenomenon in the country, analyze the various factors or conditions contributory to the participation of children in armed conflict, explore the issues and challenges the child soldier phenomenon poses in social work practice and draw lessons or insights that can contribute to the improvement of current social work practice. This qualitative study used personal interview and instrumental case study methods in data gathering. Selected regional social workers of the government's welfare department, who have handled cases of children involved in armed conflict, served as the main source of information. They were selected through purposive sampling. Likewise, instrumental case study method was used to strengthen and enrich the data gathered using 31 selected case files of child soldiers. The information was analyzed using an ecological and structural framework. This research has shown that the child soldier phenomenon in the country is multidimensional and connected with various factors internal and external to the child. The existence of the phenomenon could not be attributed solely to a single factor but rather to combination of factors in the child's environment, which serve as a cumulative force that pushes the child to participate in the armed group. This study put forth the need for a multifaceted approach in social work practice with child soldier where all systems - micro, meso, exo, macro - in the child's immediate and distant environment are considered in the entire helping process. Likewise, it stressed the need for social work actions that provides not only immediate relief to individual child and her/his family, but also longer-term solutions that targets oppressive and unjust institutional and structural order in the society. It affirmed the importance of transformative social work practice where interventions go beyond mere palliative care and the importance of reflective practice where reflection-in-action is integral to the performance of social work profession.