The phrases “tracing, re-linking and resettlement”, and “temporary care” are being used more and more. We have asked a group of professionals working in child care in Uganda to explain more about what is involved and how decisions are made. Members of the group are:-
Pastor Freda Serwadda – Director of Victory Child Care Project – Ty Cariad
Olivia Nabawanguzi – Administrator and Lead Social Worker at Victory Child Care Project – Ty Cariad
Brian Mukalazi – Field Coordinator and Education Welfare Officer at Victory Child Care Project – Ty Cariad
Mark Riley – Alternative Care Consultant
Alternative Care – family re-unification, kinship and community care, foster care or adoption. The Uganda National Framework for Alternative Care(2012) operationalises the UN Alternative Care Guidelines and Article 20(3) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) requires that institutional care is considered a last resort for children in need of alternative care. Sometimes these are not viable and therefore a high quality and culturally appropriate children’s home setting may be acceptable with permission of the Police Social and Welfare Officer (PSWO).
The movement towards resettlement DOES NOT support placing children in harmful situations but instead addressing, where possible, the situation which led to separation and coming up with a robust care plan that eventually leads to the child receiving family based care in a community rather than being in an institution under a care order.
Tracing – to look for the families and/or relatives of children in care, ensuring that there are no other options before admitting a child to an institution.
Re-Linking – reuniting children with their parents/families especially for children with known parents/families/relatives.
Resettlement – re-integration of children that have lived in institutions back to their parents/families/relatives. The process involves tracing, re-linking, child and family assessment, family visits and family meetings before resettlement.
Resettlement – Questions and Answers
Why is there a move to look to resettle children in care?
Alternative Care is now a fundamental part of the child protection landscape and every related programme being developed and implemented now has an element of de-institutionalisation, family preservation and alternative care within it.
Because the Government realised that so many children are in institutions not because they are the most vulnerable, but because of poverty, which is the main problem in most of the Ugandan families. However, admitting only one child in such families does not reduce or change the situation of the family but rather breaks the family attachment, values and thus weakening the communities at large. The Government emphasises community support especially to such families to empower them to take care of their own children rather than advocating for family separation through institutionalisation. According to the research that was done in 2014, 64% of children in institutions have at least one living parent. This triggered the Government to campaign for resettlement of children with known parents/families and relatives, and support the children from their communities with their siblings.
Another reason was because the Government realised that parents had become irresponsible and so many children had been abandoned, neglected and taken to institutions without any tracing done and no evidence of reporting to any Government authorities like the police and the probation office, not even with care orders from the courts of law to cater for such children in the institutions. That is why now the police and probation officers are also engaged in tracing for children’s families and investigations of child related cases, even when referred to institutions.
Are there guidelines in place to safeguard the children?
Various guidelines are followed to ensure children’s safety after resettlement and they include the following;
The social worker ensures that children and their parents/ relatives are well prepared through speaking to them and occurrence of bonding visits. This to ensure that the child gets exposed to staying in the family and community environment, once they cope with the situation, they later get re-integrated with those particular families permanently.
The social worker does thorough assessment of the family’s capability to take care of the child. If there are some loopholes identified in the family, the social worker assists to fix them. This even includes the needs assessment which determines the composition of a resettlement kit. It is to ensure that the child has access to necessities.
In the process of resettlement two probation officers are involved (the one who referred the child to the institution and the one in charge of the area where the children is to be resettled). In the same way, the LCI (village or neighbourhood) leadership and police in the area where the child is to be resettled has to be informed. This is intended to ensure strict monitoring and supervision of the child’s progress in the family setting.
Who is responsible for the research into the children’s background and what training have they received?
According to the law, children’s act and children’s homes regulations, it is a combination of the people who care for the child and probation officer. A care order is only valid for a maximum of 3 years so all need to work to ensure that a placement is found for a child in those three years. This may be alternative family care… kinship care or foster care if the parent cannot be found to look after the child.
Who makes the final decision regarding whether a child is resettled or not?
Ultimately it should be the probation officer. Some probation officers are refusing to issue care orders because a care order legitimises a placement… when the PSWO (Probation and Social Welfare Officer) believes the child should be supported from communities not institutions, however good they may be. So it is a combination of the social workers at the home with input from PSWO… getting that communication mechanism working is key.
The movement towards resettlement DOES NOT support placing children in harmful situations but instead addressing, where possible, the situation which led to separation and coming up with a robust care plan that eventually leads to the child receiving family base care in a community rather than being in an institution under a care order.
What factors are considered when making this decision?
All children in care should have a care plan that outlines all of the necessary steps, considerations and challenges on deciding placement of children.. care and protection, education, diet, logistics, will and understanding, monitoring, economic capabilities (although these should be addressed rather than being used as a reason for keeping a child separated from their family) etc.
Kinship care should always be considered as the second option if a parent is unable to care for a child.
What happens if a child cannot be resettled?
If, through good social work and assessments, a child cannot be resettled other alternatives should be looked at in line with the continuum of care as stipulated in the National Alternative Care Framework. This includes… kinship care, ‘fit person’ in the community, foster care and adoption. Sometimes these are not viable and therefore high quality and culturally appropriate children’s home setting may be acceptable with permission of the PSWO.
Does resettlement mean that the child may drop out of school?
Absolutely not, the child has to continue schooling depending on his/her level of education, and the care plan should address how a resettled child will access education.
The government requests child care institutions, if possible, continue providing educational and medical services to the resettled children and monitor their progress academically. This is because most parents in Uganda – mostly low income earners – fear taking the responsibility of educating children due to the expense. We therefore keep supporting them with school fees and other requirements. We even have plans to help the people who will look after them in different ways to earn money so that they are able to sustain them with the basic needs.
What follow up work is done to ensure that the child is safe and being cared for adequately?
Working with the family, working with the school, ensuring the ‘local’ structure are aware and included in the process (LC’s, CDO’s and Para-social workers etc), but according to the alternative care framework, follow-up should be done once every month for 12 months, once every after 3 months for a year, once every after 6 months for a year, then once a year until a child is stable.
What are the staffing and financial implications of this work?
A Child Care Institution should employ enough social workers corresponding with its capacity. The process is expensive and the government doesn’t give any financial assistance to help in executing the process. However it encourages institutions to partner with other organizations like Child’s I Foundation and VIVA which are ready to assist institutions in resettlements.
Temporary Care – Questions and Answers
What is temporary care?
Temporary care means an emergency response to a child who needs care and protection. It can be a lost child, an abused child, children rescued from child traffickers or child sacrifices. The care should not exceed three months from the time of admission.
How and why has VCCP been involved in this?
In between March and July VCCP has provided custody for 24 children and 23 of them have been resettled with their parents. This is because such children away from their caregivers are highly vulnerable to various risks emotionally, socially and physically; therefore VCCP gets involved to ensure that vulnerability is either prevented or reduced.
V.C.C.P has worked closely with the Kira police station and other national NGOs that rescue abused children like UYDEL to ensure that such children are given emergency care and protection as investigations and tracing of families are done both at National and international level. V.C.C.P provides temporary shelter, clothes, beddings, toiletries, love and protection. This has helped us to respond to the needs of the community where the project is.
What is the process?
When children are found abandoned by their parents, the first person to see them is supposed to take them to the nearest police station to make a statement. After, the Children and Family Protection Unit refers the child to probation officer who links the child to an institution for temporary care. Within 48 hours after receiving a child, the social worker should embark on the process of tracing the child’s relatives
What is provided for these children whilst in your care?
Most attention is emphasised on care, protection and psychosocial support by the social workers on ground to restore hope and esteem that may have been lost during the abuse. It is only cases whose family tracing may have failed that may need educational support.
What education requirements are there for these children?
Since they are expected to stay in the institution for a short period of time, education is not much emphasized because it comes with another cost. However, when the tracing process takes longer and if the child is of a school going age, the institution is expected provide education to him/her.
What has been the success rate?
The current success rate is 96% of the cases V.C.C.P has received under temporary care.
We received first three cases on 10th March 2015, two cases were resettled; one by 15th March, another by 18th June, and only one remains at the centre.
We received more eleven cases on 18th March 2015, and by 24th March all of them had been resettled.
We received ten cases on 13th June 2015, and by 17th July all of them had been resettled.
What happens to the children whose family cannot be traced?
If the social worker fails to identify the relatives after thorough tracing, the child become a suitable candidate for long term fostering and adoption. It is advisable for the social worker to come up with a report and present the child to the Alternative Care Panel for approval.
How do you see Victory Child Care Project – Ty Cariad continuing to serve the children of Uganda in this area?
I strongly support the continuity of this program if the budget could allow because tracing is associated with extra costs. VCCP will be in position to minister to as many children as possible hence planting a seed all over the country.
V.C.C.P is doing a tremendous work to both the children in Kira and those countrywide. If temporary care is continued, more children will be rescued and cared for by the project and its vision and mission will be fulfilled.