September 11, 2020 Article

The Compass: Gathering Youth Resources in a Time of Crisis

A global resource designed to help vulnerable children, youth, and families quickly identify local resources, services, and protections still available around the world during the pandemic.

By Chris Ivy
As COVID-19 spread across the globe, governments, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals scrambled to help children and youth stay safe.

As COVID-19 spread across the globe, governments, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals scrambled to help children and youth stay safe.

Credit: Pexels, Gustavo Fring

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The COVID-19 crisis has affected everyone in different ways across the globe. Because of the pandemic, the level of services available to individuals could be drastically reduced depending on the jurisdiction. And a need for additional services exists to accommodate the new issues that the crisis creates.

The mission of Baker McKenzie’s pro bono and social responsibility practice is to engage teams of problem solvers on the most compelling social justice challenges around the globe where our teams can have an impact. The pro bono and social responsibility practice covers many different areas, including children’s rights, justice crossing borders, rule of law, gender justice, LGBTQ+ advocacy, and a nonprofit support hub. With the rise of COVID-19, Baker McKenzie was asked to assist in many different ways, such as quick research, assistance in virtual clinics, helping on cases, developing technologies for nonprofits that are responding to the crisis, and assisting with the training of people in the field.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread throughout the globe, governments, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals scrambled to help children and youth stay safe. The global spread and ever-changing landscape make understanding what assistance is available difficult. A program was needed to identify available resources on the ground in different jurisdictions. To support that need, Baker McKenzie launched a pro bono effort to gather a quick collection of resources available in countries around the globe as offices, shelters, courts, and other institutions began shutting down. The available resources can be found in Baker McKenzie’s Youth Rights Resource Compass initiative.

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The Youth Rights Resource Compass

The purpose of the Youth Rights Resource Compass is to provide a global resource designed to help vulnerable children, youth, and families quickly identify local resources, services, and protections still available around the world during the pandemic. The Compass provides websites, phone numbers, social media resources, and physical addresses to help connect individuals to the resources they need. The identified resources could assist young people whether they are alone or with families. The resources also could assist young people on the street or those separated from their regular caretakers, and children in crisis, such as those who are trafficked, sold on the street, or dependent on the street.

To assist its audience, the Compass is structured around five main areas: (1) health, (2) education, (3) rights, (4) safety, and (5) services. These are critical areas of care for young people that will be needed during this crisis. However, the Compass is not necessarily limited to these five areas. If volunteers find resources such as nonprofits and charities that could be helpful for the audience, they are included. The goal for the Compass is to provide the audience with a broad variety of information that will help them during the pandemic.

Health resources are critical during the COVID-19 crisis. With shelter limitations, the issue of health resources becomes even more important. If hospital and other care facilities become overrun with COVID-19 cases, it is critical to know where someone can find general and emergency health care. In addition, it is important to know what mental health resources may be available to someone in this time of crisis.

For education, the focus in the Compass is on how to access education if schools are closed and how to access education for children with disabilities. It is important for individuals to know how they can continue or resume their education during this shutdown.

The rights area of the Compass addresses resources that ensure that legal rights can be met. The Compass identifies the availability of courts as well as hotlines for abuse, abandonment, and neglect. It is critical for individuals to know if they can still access courts if they need to; what their rights in the criminal justice system are and how they may have changed; and what, if any, identification documents are needed to access services.

For safety, the focus is on where to go if shelters are closed and whether government resources are available. It is critical for individuals to know if shelter care is available to young people in this emergency, if the child welfare system is still operational, and if they can access help and assistance, and what is available if someone had to run away from a caretaker or family.

Finally, under the services area, the Compass focuses on emergency facilities and food banks. With the possibility of food insecurity in some jurisdictions, it is critical to know what is available, such as any benefits or public services an individual may access during this time of crisis and if there are emergency services, food, and resources that can be accessed.

The Process

To create Compass resources for as many jurisdictions from around the world as possible, Baker McKenzie leveraged its global platform of 77 offices in 46 countries. Volunteers from offices all over the world within many different roles have worked together to make the Compass as comprehensive as possible. If a Baker McKenzie office exists in the jurisdiction, the volunteers reach out to the office for knowledge about resources, contacts, and language support. Baker McKenzie also tries to match volunteers with interests and language skills.

The project started as a request for assistance through Baker McKenzie’s pro bono and social responsibility practice. To further expand the global information provided, the firm invited others from outside the firm to join its volunteers in developing the Compass resources. The volunteers attended an introductory presentation that described the background, goals, and process for this work.

The volunteers are assigned to different jurisdiction teams based on need, language skill, and interest. The team sizes vary depending on the jurisdiction but are typically between four to five volunteers per team. To keep the Compass resources fresh, teams are given about two weeks to research and write up the resources. The Compass is refreshed by the same or a different volunteer team (depending on availability) later in the process to ensure the information is kept up to date.

With the goal of providing a list of current resources in the jurisdictions, the teams research possible resources and confirm availability. The confirmation can be done through phone calls, emails, or website interactions. The types of resources the teams research and contact include governments, nongovernmental organizations, academic institutions, hospitals, and other sources. The teams record information researched in a jurisdiction Tracker document so future teams can easily see which resources were researched, which resources were contacted, and who responded.

The teams with local language skills on hand or in Baker McKenzie offices in the jurisdiction create Compass resources in a local language and in English. Some volunteers are translators, so they volunteer their time to translate the English-language Compass resources into local languages. Some jurisdictions have Compass resources in multiple local languages depending on language skills.

Once the Compass resource and Tracker documents are complete, they are submitted for an internal review. The review team members are volunteers from offices with different language skills. They review the Compass resource documents, standardize formatting, provide feedback, or ask follow-up questions to the jurisdiction teams.

After the review process is complete, the Compass resource documents are uploaded to the Youth Rights Resource Compass public website. The site is based on a content platform called Sitecore, which allows greater flexibility in functionality. The jurisdictions are identified by large boxes with their names, sometimes in both English and a local language. Clicking on the box opens the Compass resource in the local language (if available) for the jurisdiction. The resource content is presented on the page with links to open the content in a downloadable format to save for future use. Links to other languages are also provided. The site also includes filters to narrow the resources by region, as well as a search function to find a specific jurisdiction.

Results

The volunteer teams have created Compass resources for over 100 jurisdictions. Many of the Compass resources have already been reviewed and updated by original or newer teams, depending on availability. Baker McKenzie is using traditional and social media to spread the word about the Youth Rights Resource Compass. Baker McKenzie also has communicated with service organizations in the local jurisdictions about the Compass site to help alert youth and those who are supporting children and youth.

Impact

Since the launch of the Compass public website, visitors from around the world have visited the site to learn about resources available to youth and others in critical areas. It is hoped that knowledge of the Youth Rights Resource Compass will continue to spread and the Compass will fill the gap identified by many organizations early on during the COVID-19 crisis.

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Chris Ivy

Author

Chris Ivy is a senior legal project manager at Baker McKenzie in Palm Harbor, Florida.


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