Diadema is located within the metropolitan area of the city of São Paulo; thirty-five percent of the municipality’s population lives on a family income equal to or less than two minimum wage salaries. An estimated 43,000 children and youth are vulnerable to social risks including drug and alcohol dependency, domestic violence, and criminal behavior associated with persistent poverty. Although there are a number of organizations working to address the needs of this low-income population, their activities tend to be isolated and disorganized. These organizations, concerned about the limited efficacy of their efforts, debated with both NGOs and governmental agencies to determine how to reform their organizations.
In 1998, these debates grew into an informal network among service providers who compared experiences. The network included groups working with mental health, drug addiction, violence and criminality. In 2001, the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES) offered financial resources for creating a database on service provision to children and their families within the municipality; this initiative to consolidate information gave an official shape to the loose network formed earlier, which developed into the Diadema Child and Youth Network.
Once the Network received official recognition and funding, it began operating under the official auspices of the Municipal Council for Child and Youth Rights (CMDCA). The Network is structured in three parts: Participating Members, the Administrative Nucleus, and the Executive Committee. The Participating Members feed the Network by contributing data on children, youths and families that have received their services. These member organizations may be governmental or non-governmental in nature. The Network currently includes about 50 members; partner institutions deal largely with problems relating to human development, family relationships, childhood, education, assistance, and health. The variety of partner agencies included gives the Network a large body of resources on which to draw in coordinating new initiatives to meet the needs of low-income children and families in Diadema.
The Administrative Nucleus of the Network consists of ten representatives from the Assembly: six official representatives and four substitutes. Half are from governmental organizations and the other half non-governmental. The Nucleus manages the Network, defines policies such as evaluation procedure, and approves the Executive Committee. The Committee has a specifically hired team headquartered within the Municipal Department of Social Assistance and Citizenship to integrate the activities of the Network’s members.
To take part in the Network, organizations must be legally registered. This excludes a number of groups who work with children and youths; even so, there are currently fifty organizations taking part, working with approximately 20,000 young people who are in vulnerable situations. Families and young people in need of assistance are directed by participants to pertinent member organizations such as health clinics, the Child Rights Forum, and FEBEM, and the state youth correctional organization.
An electronic data bank is in the process of implementation: exchange of information currently consists of verbal and informal presentations during Network meetings and e-mail communications among the Executive Committee. Even without an operative computer system, the member organizations have taken on the commitment of producing, exchanging, and distributing information and are aware of where to look for information and assistance. Training courses have been a key element in improving attendance. In 2004, 267 professionals from 47 organizations were trained in areas such as social management and information technology, and in specific themes such as children, youth, and families.
The Diadema Child and Youth Network has been recognized by the Diadema municipal government as an important partner in implementing public policies. It improves services to at-risk children and families through integrating government and civil society organizations to provide in-depth and complementary treatments.
- The Diadema Child and Youth Network integrates a number of different governmental and non governmental organizations working with similar issues to promote efficiency in finding solutions to complex social problems.
- In order to work with issues such as youth drug and alcohol dependency, criminality, and mental health, member organizations pool resources and information through a Network structure.
- The Network promotes a constant exchange system with government entities directing families in need to member organizations while in turn benefiting from the data collected by the network in order to identify and expand successful public policies.