Judicial delegation from Paraguay visits England for discussions on child care and protection.

In January, Dr Carolina Llanes, the first vice president of the Supreme Court of Justice and minister in charge of the jurisdiction of children and adolescents led a delegation from Paraguay to visit SFAC and those involved in child care and protection in Leeds, England.

Less than two months after the visit Dr Carolina has already shared her learnings with her law students and, together with her colleagues has already started local meetings with the technical office and children’s judges to share their experiences and to develop a plan of care they can implement with their state organisation.

Keep reading to find out how the visit came about, what it involved, who made it possible and for a little glimpse into English birthday celebrations! 🎂

"We have already started local meetings with the technical office and children's judges to share the experience and to develop a plan of
care we can implement with our state organisation."

After more than a decade of partnering with the NGO Paraguay Protects Families (PPF) to improve child care and protection systems in Paraguay, PPF again approached SFAC. This time on behalf of the Paraguayan government and judiciary.

PPF’s hard work with many people and organisations on the ground in Paraguay, along with our help and support has resulted in significant change for children throughout Paraguay. 

PPF director, Anja had this to say about our partnership:

“The support from SFAC and ROLE UK has been an invaluable asset to the nation of Paraguay, inspiring not only achievable best practice but also offering practical insight and advice in how to apply it to the national context.

This is only possible because of consecutive projects over the past years: training consultation, learning visits and multi-disciplinary professional support for implementation.

The progress already witnessed in Paraguay, enhanced by the involvement of ROLE UK and SFAC is outstanding.”

WHY did PPF approach SFAC for support?

Paraguay have now incorporated a model from SFAC’s training into their law and policy members of the government and judiciary were looking for our support and guidance in the implementation stage. 

(if you’ve participated in any of our training sessions over the years you might recognise the model as “the windscreen” or, more recently, “the continuum of services”!) 

Those responsible for implementing the new legislation wanted to see an example of the model in action.

In other words, they wanted to see how the theory could be translated into practice. 

In particular, they wanted examples of how each aspect of the continuum relates to the other.

For example: 

🟡 How does a social work and court system interact? 

🟡 How do the prevention and protection sides work together? 

WHAT was the plan of action and HOW did we implement it?

After discussions with our CEO, Dan Hope, it was decided the most effective way for SFAC to provide support was to arrange for two delegations to visit the UK for an experience exchange. The visits would allow delegations to meet with people working in the child care and protection sector here in Leeds. It would be a chance to see an example of one way the continuum of services is being implemented. And, all the strengths, weaknesses, challenges and opportunities would be highlighted!

If you think your organisation, or an organisation you know of, could benefit from an experience exchange visit with SFAC, please email us on info@sfac.org.uk

Why two visits?

For a few reasons:

🟢 When SFAC arranges experience exchange visits like this, numbers are intentionally kept small. This ensures the visit is a shared learning experience and a discussion between the English hosts and the visiting delegation. And not just a series of lectures on “this is how we do it here”

🟢 Practically, visits are also kept to a maximum of a week as most people are unable to take more time away from their day to day work than this and because a week packed with meetings and discussions is the maximum amount of information and interaction people can absorb!

🟢 All SFAC experience exchange visits are tailored directly to the needs of the visiting delegation. The two groups from Paraguay will meet with different stakeholders and the focus of discussions will differ. 

What does an experience exchange visit with SFAC look like?

With the plan agreed, it was time to call on SFAC’s networks to help make this a value packed experience for the visiting delegations! A huge thank you to all the people and organisations highlighted below for your contributions.

Below is a recap of the first visit.

The second delegation arrives this month so we’ll let you know how that one plays out very soon!

🇵🇾 The Paraguayan delegation

The delegation was led by

🔵 Dr Carolina Llanes, the first vice president of the Supreme Court of Justice and minister in charge of the jurisdiction of children and adolescents

and also included

🟢 Minister Lorena Segovia (Head of Public Defense)

🔵 Judge Guillermo Trovato (Children’s Court – Court of Appeal Chamber)

🟡 Judge Pili Rodriguez (Children’s Court – First Instance Court)

🟢 Carlos Alderete (Co-ordinator – Paraguay Protects Family)

Local Authority Lawyers and Child Protection Team

Representatives of the Leeds child protection team, Fiona Tharme, Aimee Peel and Leanne Gilbert and local authority lawyer, Rebecca Roberts, spoke about assessment in child protection investigations and how child protection teams work with Early Help teams and local authority lawyers.

Looked After Team

Members of the team responsible for children who are looked after by the state, Clare Slaney, Gareth Tomlinson, Liam Gozzard and Sharon Murphy shared how Leeds local authority provides care for children who cannot safely live with their biological parents.

Family Group Conference Co-ordinators & Early Help Team

Emma Naylor, Bernie Jackson and Barbara Uren explained how they work with families to develop support plans for parents/carers and children to improve the child’s safety and well-being.

Independent Reviewing Officers

Independent Reviewing Officers, Janine Craven and Siobhan Brady, explained their role overseeing the care of children who are looked after by Leeds and how they provide the scrutiny and checks and balances to ensure care plans are in the child’s best interests.

Adoption & Foster Care

Sarah Johal, the National Adoption Lead outlined the assessment procedures prospective adoptive parents go through. SFAC’s founder, Mick Pease, was able to step in for the Foster Care representative who was unwell. Using his knowledge as a former foster carer assessor, He explained how foster carers are assessed, monitored and supported. This was discussed in the context of the courts being able to have confidence in both options being safe for children.


Nicola Toomes and Vicky Thompson from Children And Families Court Advisory Support Service (also known as Cafcass because it rolls off the tongue a whole lot more easily!) shared about their role representing children in court.

Leeds Children’s Services

The directors of Leeds Children’s Services, Julia Longworth and Farrah Khan outlined their role in overseeing child care and protection for the city.

Leeds Relational Practice Centre

Former director of children’s services and current director of Leeds Relational Practice Centre, Sal Tauriq led a discussion around the importance of working with families and providing early support to prevent as many children as possible from entering state care.

Lawyers & Judges

Leeds based lawyers and judges, Louise McCallum and Sara Anning provided an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of the English child care and protection systems

FDAC Pilot

Retired district judge, Karen Woodhead, gave a presentation about the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) pilot for family care proceedings.

Sir Mark Hedley – Retired High Court Judge

The highly respected Sir Mark Hedley shared openly about his experiences of being a family court judge.

Leeds Judiciary

Senior members and representatives of Leeds family justice system,  Mr Justice Nigel Poole (Head Family Court Judge for West Yorkshire) His Honour Judge Hayes, KC and District Judge Ranjit Uppal, also met with the delegation.

This visit was only possible thanks to the financial and technical support from Advocates for International Development’s ROLE UK programme and UKAid. We are extremely grateful for their ongoing support for projects like this.

The Impact on International Child Care and Protection

So now that you have an understanding of all this jam-packed visit involved, you might be wondering,

“Was it worth it?”

The impact of these visits often plays out over subsequent months and years.

However, along with Dr Carolina’s comments at the beginning of this post, here’s what we know already:

In conversations with Dan, the Paraguayans highlighted three key takeaways:

🔵 The importance of ensuring child care and protection processes are child centred.

🟢 The value (both human and economic) of working with families rather than doing things to them. Prevention and early support alongside options and solutions chosen by the families make a world of difference. This question is key: How can families be supported to change before a situation becomes unsafe?

🟡 The need for child care and protection practices to include systems of checks and balances to ensure that actions taken result in more children being and feeling safe and having the best chance to thrive.

After the visit, Dr Carolina and Judges Guillermo and Pilli all commented that they found the information about pre-court processes particularly helpful. Judge Guillermo was very impressed by the way the initial child protection systems (also known as the ‘front door’ system 🚪) acts as a funnel for all referrals and to complete assessments where needed before the courts were involved. Judge Pili summed it up:

“Prevention and support is key and judges [in Paraguay] can make that happen”

Judge Pili also indicated that she will be identifying actions that strengthen multi-disciplinary ways of working across agencies – legal, social work and therapeutic care. She said “there is much that, with adaptation, we can take inspiration from to improve child protection systems in Paraguay while respecting the national characteristics, culture and context of our country.”

"There is much that, with adaptation, we can take inspiration from to improve child protection systems in Paraguay while also respecting the characteristics, culture and context of our country"

The English presenters also reflected on their own practice as the Paraguayan’s asked insightful questions and shared their experiences and knowledge.

These visits are very effective at helping everyone in the room ask:

🔵 Why do we do it that way?!

🟢 What other options might be possible?

And, many of the UK hosts were impressed with the way Paraguay incorporates psychologists more widely and earlier in child care and protection processes.

This next success might not have been in the original objectives but it was a bonus. As a result of the visit, some stereotypes were changed. We are reliably informed that the English are much more relaxed than expected!

Time for a Treat!

If you’ve made it this far, you deserve a treat.

As did Carlos, from PPF. He co-ordinated the visit from the Paraguay side and took on the role of translator.

He also celebrated a birthday in the middle of it all!

You may have guessed that meeting with all these different people doesn’t leave much time for experiencing the local culture. But we did manage to squeeze in a very English birthday experience for Carlos.

Happy Birthday was sung alongside the traditional Paraguayan birthday song, a gift given, and a Colin the Caterpillar cake was consumed!

Enjoy this photo of Carlos and Dan with Carlos’ birthday copy of Mick’s book and a Colin the Caterpillar cake for those who’ve never seen one!

If you think your organisation, or an organisation you know of, could benefit from an experience exchange visit with SFAC, please email us on info@sfac.org.uk

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