Cyber Counseling Center for Youth
Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, Korea Youth Counseling Institute

The Problem

As juvenile problems became increasingly serious including runaway youth, delinquency, school dropout, and suicide, there was a steady increase in youth at riskwho needed social care due to their difficulties with school and family life. With growing social attention and concern for youth problems, the Government Youth Commission officially commenced services in 2005, thereby proceeding with a key policy initiative for the launch of CYS-Net(Community Youth Safety Net). However,this nationwide network of youth counseling support centers(CYS-Net) could not cover all areas. Consequently,some juvenile groups had poor access to services available via CYS-Net, including those living in non-service zones or remote areas, as well as the disabled.

Moreover, counseling demands continued to grow which led to the lack of counseling space and manpower at youth counseling support centers, and this prolonged the waiting period for counseling. Service bottlenecks also became problematic as juveniles tended to prefer after-school counseling (after 4 p.m.).As a result, they underwent actual inconvenience of service access because most of themwent home late at night (after 10 p.m.) due to after-school self-study and private tutoring. In particular, it was difficult to detect youth at risk (i.e. sexual violence, school dropout, reclusive youth, etc.) because they shunned face-to-face counseling.

The government tried to fulfill the value of social care services without a care deficit by minimizing the grievance and discomfort of marginalized juveniles. It sought remedies for the above problemsby reflecting the social demand for creating jobs for idle females. Meanwhile, a more intimate approach also seemed necessary given the current trend of youthwho are fairly familiar with the Internet.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The government expected a user-centered, around-the-clock cyber counseling service beyond time and space to become a viable alternative given Korean juveniles' higher Internet usage,PC diffusion,and remarkable web environment. Juveniles not only are quite familiar with cyberspace but also prefer both the anonymity and convenience of cyber counseling. Given that youth at risk that fall under the category of school dropouts tended to access the Internet late at night, an around-the-clock cyber counseling service seemed proper for early detection of youth at risk. Based upon this real-time counseling system available around the clock all year long, the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth now provides systematic and professional counseling services for youth, inclusive of marginalized groups with poor service access.It embodies the service environment for youth at risk to seek and receive counseling anytime and anywhere, thereby strengthening the function of early counseling as a buffer against risk situations.

Moreover, it offers solutions tailored to a wide range of user demands via various tools and contents such as chatting, bulletin board, web psychological test, and a troubleshooting encyclopedia. It cooperates with local youth counseling support centers about youth at risk in need of urgent intervention via the integrated case management system via a closer link with CYS-Net, thereby minimizing the intervenient limitations of cyber counseling.

Due to the possible use of telecommuting counselors, cyber counseling can give job opportunities to idle females in full charge of childcare after their cyber counselor training. Cyber counseling is an embodiment of smart works because such counseling zone in cyber space can minimize both the space and the cost necessary for office works.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The Ministry of Gender Equality & Family proposed a real-time cyber counseling service given Korean juveniles' greater Internet usage and wide-ranging youth at risk's higher online access late at night, thereby persuading budgetary agencies and the National Assembly for the acquisition of budgetary sources. Such ongoing persuasion efforts regarding the necessity of this initiative led to budgetary acquisition of about KRW 1.2 billion, and the service provider was selected through an open call. The Korea Youth Counseling Institute was chosen in this wayas the service provider given its long standing contribution to youth counseling and multi-year operational experience with cyber counseling, and the Task Force on Cyber Counseling was organized to take charge of overall execution and practical operation of the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth. The Task Force spearheaded both the operation and the management of the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth. For the real-time cyber counseling service system available all day long, cyber counseling telecommuters were hired to offer online counseling via chatting and bulletin boards. They were selected from certified experts on youth counseling, thereby supporting professional counseling for the settlement of youth problems. Key service targets now include all people concerned about juvenile issues, includingyouth aged 9-24 and their families or friends.

Networking with youth counseling support centers nationwide(based in cities, provinces, counties, and districts)and relevant outsideentitieswas also necessary for ensuring effective intervention and efficient follow-up management system for extensive counseling cases (i.e.risk situations) and transcending the limitations of cyber counseling. The Cyber Counseling Center for Youth hereby intervened in individual problems of counselees through networking and cooperation with youth counseling support centers nationwide, professional organizations dedicated to specific issues (sexual violence, school violence, etc.), police stations, hospitals, etc. Thus, the aforesaid youth counseling support centers plus organizations and entities might be construed as the interested partieswith a major stake in this initiative.

In other words, CYS-NET(Community Youth Safety Net) beyond time and space was built on an online base in cyberspace and on an offline base at youth counseling support centers.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The Cyber Counseling Center for Youth aimed to impede risk continuation and expansion through early counseling via a real-time counseling system available anytime and anywhere for youth at risk, to offer various solutions to juvenile issues via the Internet familiar to youth, and to support emergency rescue and follow-up services for youth at risk through a closer link with CYS-Net.The following strategies were formulated to execute this initiative:

To ensure that counseling services were available around the clock all year long, it focused primarily on creating a stable electronic system and a task force in charge of systematic provision of counseling services. For efficient operation of cyber counseling, it made maximum use of the Korea Youth Counseling Institute's operational know-how and manpower for cyber counseling during the formation of a task force. Telecommuting manpower were selected as those personnel dedicated to real-time counseling services. A real-time counseling system operated on four-hour shifts every day.

Next,the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth harnessed its cooperative link with CYS-Net to support early detection, emergency rescue, and follow-up services for youth at risk. Such closer connection with local resources contributed to building a system for early intervention in risk situations beyond the reach of face-to-face counseling, and this also promoted early intervention and management in case youth at risk were detected. The Cyber Counseling Center for Youth broadened its presence and user accessin a short time through diversification of counseling contents, active cyber outreach activities in conjunction with major domestic portals, and publicity strategies via various media tailored to specific target and period.It pursued better management of performance goals and quality services through permanent education programs for greater expertise of telecommuting counselors plus a monitoring process for real-time counseling services.

These strategies were jointly planned by the Ministry of Gender Equality & Family and the Korea Youth Counseling Institute. After the Ministry of Gender Equality & Family offered a macroscopic framework, the Korea Youth Counseling Institute prepared detailed action plans and execution strategies based on previous experience and know-how.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
In January 2011, after securing budgetary sources, the Ministry of Gender Equality & Family issued a “Notice about the Selection of the 2011 Service Provider for a Cyber Counseling Center for Youth.” The Korea Youth Counseling Institute was chosen as the service provider, and in February 2011 it submitted a “Service Scheme for the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth.” It organized a task force to lay the foundation for service operationduring one month until February 28, 2011 when the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth launched its counseling services along with the opening ceremony.

Upon the opening ceremony, the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth embarked on service operations through ongoing monitoring of telecommuting, occurrence of risk cases, and stable system operation. Due to its around-the-clock services available all year long, it designated a person in charge of monitoring just in case risk situations or system malfunction occurred late at night or on weekends and holidays. In particular, it developed a guideline for effective intervention in risk situations(pregnancy, suicide, runaway youth, violence, etc.) while improving efforts to educate cyber counselors on youth at risk. It offered support services in conjunction with youth counseling support centers nearby, local police stations, and the emergency 911 number, and it established a procedure for follow-up risk intervention which ranged from one to three months depending on risk cases.

The Cyber Counseling Center for Youth performed a variety of publicity activities to enhance service operation and user participation.For quality cyber counseling and upgraded services for users, it provided monthly education programs for cyber counselors, including discussion sessions about cyber counseling cases and special lectures about specific themes. In June 2011, e-learning was adopted for telecommuting counselors to receive additional education at homewhere they work. Periodic supervision also contributed to reinforcing the capacity of cyber counselors.

In July 2011 when the Ministry of Gender Equality & Family conducted an interim check-up, it commissioned 7 youth counseling experts from inside and outside and 5 juvenile service users for youthto monitor and inspect the overall operation of the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth. Then, it notified the result to the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth, which devised specific measures and started reflecting them in its actual operation during the second half of the year. For the upcoming homepage renewal in October 2011, the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth carried out a survey of content needs of service users as well as an open call and selection of content developers in June 2011. In July 2011, it began content development reflective of user needs, which was completed in late October to be embodied in thehomepage renewal. After the aforesaid processes, theCyber Counseling Center for Youthis now pursuing the long-term operation, being buoyed by stability across operational guidelines for cyber counseling, electronic system, education and training, and publicity.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
Abrupt system malfunction, necessity of prompt intervention in risk cases, and supervision of telecommuters became the foremost issues for consideration in the operation of the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth.

System malfunction was the most sensitive issue in cyber counseling of online dimensions. Ongoing monitoring and real-time intervention were needed for stable system operation available around the clock all year long. The Cyber Counseling Center for Youth required a prompt solution to satisfy user (counselee) demands for cyber counseling and ensure work convenience for cyber counselors. Accordingly, it forged cooperative ties with the Korea Youth Counseling Institute's electronic team, thereby stabilizing a real-time chat counseling system through regular meetingsand anemergency communication network available on weekends and holidays. It updated its ever-changing contents through PC setup by cyber counselors via remote controls, thereby reinforcing the support functions of telecommuting counselors.

In case urgent intervention was necessary for risk cases, the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth had difficulty in offering direct support due to the inherent features of cyber counseling media. This raised the necessity of a close network of prompt support services for counselees, thus the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth established a risk response procedure. It kept anemergency communication network between telecommuting counselors and supervisors in the cyber counseling team to support supervision and intervention in the event of risk counseling not only during the daytime on weekdays but also at night or on weekends and holidays. Moreover, it strengthened the education on risk counseling, including repetitive education on follow-up procedures after counseling. It formed an advisory board to provide advice about follow-up measures in the event of risk cases, and built cooperative ties with the police to get help regarding legal action. It developed a procedure under the electronic system for seeking online counseling to youth counseling support centers nationwide under CYS-Netwhile adding new menu items for classification and management of risk cases.

Finally, the supervision of the 32 telecommuters remained a hurdle in the smooth operation of the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth. Working patterns of cyber counselors were surveyed to manage such invisible telecommuters' attendance status and fulfillment of duties and offer real-time intervention in risk cases, and then an automatic attendance recording system was adopted. The Cyber Counseling Center for Youth prepared systems for counselors' individual performance reporting and statistics to check the fulfillment of duties, thereby facilitating the systematic management of counselors and reflecting such results in the performance evaluation of counselors. For real-time monitoring of chat counseling, intervention support was available for risk cases which occurred at a long distance from the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
The relevant budget sourced from the Ministry of Gender Equality & Family was used for the operation of the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth (i.e. creation of electronic system, payroll, education and training, and publicity).Major human resources included the Korea Youth Counseling Institute's operational know-how for cyber counseling since 1998 and research outcomes, and 35 experts with at least a master's degree and hands-on experience in psychology, pedagogy, social welfare, etc. In addition to such human resources, a nationwide social safety net (CYS-Net), and an electronic system became the technical resources to set this initiative in motion.

The Korea Youth Counseling Institute's electronic system plus linkage with the Korea Youth Counseling Institute's integrated information network CYS-Net and support upgraded work efficiency through the cyber counseling system while laying the foundation for the early provision of cyber counseling services. This initiative gained efficient backing with the provision of PCs for the exclusive use of telecommuting counselors, the creation of anti-hacking and security networks, the development of workflow support systems for efficient fulfillment of duties, and the launch of attendance management support systems via an electronic attendance recoding program.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
This initiative secured its basis for ongoing execution through the stable financial support from the Ministry of Gender Equality & Family and overall operation by the Korea Youth Counseling Institute. After its initial launch in 2011, this initiative had already acquired the necessary budgetary sources for the year 2012. Subsequent budget acquisition will go smoothly because cyber counseling demands show a continuous growth.

Support measures were newly taken for the management of risk cases via cyber counseling, including the formulation of criteria for the selection of risk cases,the reinforcement of training programs (in-service training, permanent education, e-learning, etc.),the distribution of cyber counseling manuals for youth at risk of suicide, and the ongoing monitoring and supervision of risk counseling cases. They proved helpful for the ongoing management of risk cases.

It was also important to ensure a consistent counseling mechanism through the active sharing of counseling cases among cyber counselors,which was efficiently handled by a work support system. For inspection and rectification of problems, the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth frequently communicated operational details with the Ministry of Gender Equality & Family via monthly and interim reports. After the Ministry of Gender Equality & Family evaluated these reports, the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth drew up an educational plan for improving and supporting cyber counseling, and accordingly it educated cyber counselors during the permanent education session.

Cyber counseling is part of media counseling courses for those at level III among youth counselors with a nationally certified license. This has been an enormous contribution to the production of counseling experts. This program is designed to train novice counselors with the lack of practical and technical know-how for cyber counseling and no experience of counseling conditions equipped with a stable system. Supervisors at the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth provide the foundation for cultivating cyber counseling experts through theoretical education and practical exercises.Such approach motivates more qualified counselors to engage in cyber counselingin various sectors.

Those supervisors actively serve as educators in the cyber counseling course operated by youth counseling support centers based in cities, provinces, counties, and districts. In addition to theoretical education, they support cyber counseling at the local level by publicizing the importance of cyber counseling.
They also gave a presentation on “Understanding and Current Status of Cyber Counseling” at an academic conference hosted by the Korean Counseling Psychological Association. At the Korean Counseling Association's monthly meeting, they showcased the importance of cyber counseling to counseling experts through case presentations.

In addition to education programs for adults, the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth is actively involved in training peer counselors via specific programs geared towardsnurturing juvenile peer counselors operating in cyberspace. After completing this course, these peer counselors get the opportunity to gain hands-on experience of peer counseling at the “I'm Counselor” section, and the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth provides ongoing supervision to assist them in helping their peers.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
First, this initiative's success is primarily attributable to the government's active efforts towards budget acquisition with consideration for cyber counseling demands, technical know-how buoyed by stable financial support, and a dynamic communication network among working-level people: 3 supervisors and 32 cyber counselors at the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth. Close communication among relevant personnel and systematic operation and management process are particularly notable because it can make further strides in the operation of the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth through frequent reporting to the Ministry of Gender Equality & Family. To boost immediate troubleshooting, cyber counselors are educated on all output from the above processes at monthly education sessions. This cyclical mechanism remains a driving force behind the operational success of the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth.

Second, this initiative's success is driven by the Korea Youth Counseling Institute's human resources of research manpower and operational resources including the electronic team's technical know-how for cyber counseling support since 1998, the integrated support network for youth at risk(CYS-Net), and the wide-ranging development of cyber counseling programs. Korea's higher Internet penetration rate plays a key role in providing counseling welfare for all juveniles in need of counseling such as those at current and potential risk (i.e. the disabled and those living in a remote area or non-service zones of CYS-Net).

Third, this initiative's stellar performance derives from passionate counselors highly committed to helping the sound growth of youth. Notwithstanding numerous hardships, dedicated counselors have made every effort to ensure that counseling services are available around the clock all year long for enhanced juvenile welfare, thereby bringing further progress to the Cyber Counseling Center for Youth.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, Korea Youth Counseling Institute
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Bok-sil Lee
Title:   Assistant Minister of the Youth&Family Policy Off.  
Telephone/ Fax:   82-2-2075-8621/ 82-2-2075-4772
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   6th Floor, Premier Place Bldg. Cheonggyechonno 8, Jung-Gu
Postal Code:   100-777
City:   Seoul
State/Province:   Seoul

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