Reuniting children with their families
by Godfrey Turyatemba and Susan M. Otai
Reintegration means helping children move back into families and communities.
Children and families both need careful support before they can be reunited. The exact process they will follow will depend on their unique situation. It is important not to rush the process. For children who have been on the street or in an institution for some time, it would usually take at least six months.
The child follows this process:
Rescue: Children may be referred from hospitals, social workers or the police. Sometimes babies are found in dustbins or at the roadside.
Rehabilitate: Social workers should carry out an initial child assessment. This shows how the child is doing physically, mentally, emotionally, medically, psychologically and intellectually. Immediate needs are identified and dealt with before a child is resettled back into the family.
Care plan: A care plan should include information about the child’s needs and how the reintegration will take place. It also has details of the time frame, person responsible, costs involved and steps for completing the resettlement. It is important to help children prepare emotionally for reintegration.
Work with the family includes:
Family tracing: Support workers trace the child’s biological family or find a foster family. They visit the family and talk about the child.
Assessment and preparation: Social workers assess whether the family is able to take care of the child without putting the child at risk.
Family visits: The child visits the family and begins to bond before going to live with them permanently.
Building support networks: Visits are arranged to link the family up with support services in the community. This includes health workers, social workers and community and religious leaders.
Once all this has taken place, the child can be settled into the family. After the child is placed with the family, a social worker should visit within seven days to see how they are doing. A social worker will visit the family regularly until the child is fully settled. Visits usually take place once a month for the first three months, and then once every three months for up to a year, depending on the family’s situation. The organisation should keep in touch with the child even after the child has left the programme.
CRANE is a network of Christian organisations in Uganda and a partner of Viva. They work to inspire lasting change in children’s lives through collective action.