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This content is taken from the University of Strathclyde & CELCIS's online course, Caring for Children Moving Alone: Protecting Unaccompanied and Separated Children. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second Right when the unaccompanied and separated children arrive to the camp, they have social workers who are assigned to make daily monitoring and follow up. So the social workers are assigned to each child, so each child in the camp– each unaccompanied and separated child in the camp– have social workers who do the follow up and monitoring the child’s living situation, their school attendance, their health status, and on their relationship with their guardians or with their foster caregivers if they are placed under the foster care, and even with their relatives– the relationship between caregiver and the child. And the whole living situation is monitored by the social workers, so the social workers give us an update on the children’s living situation.

Skip to 0 minutes and 50 seconds If there are potential issues, just they identify them and appraise for the case management officers. So the case management officers also do their follow-up and monitoring and the referral pathway for these children to get the relevant services for the children as part of their need– as part of their protection need. These social workers– the social workers are picked from the refugee community– need to know more about child protection and about the child’s– the children’s protection rights in the camp. So right up on their election for the post, they are given at least two days’ training on case management, on the psychosocial problems of unaccompanied and separated children, other potential risks like GBV– Gender-Based Violence potential risks– and others.

Skip to 1 minute and 38 seconds So after getting this training, they also had to know how to complete the different forms– the registration form, which is supposed to be complementing the BIA– the Best Interests Assessment– and other forms like family tracing and reunification, the follow-up forms, and the like. So we do familiarise these social workers with these forms. After taking this training sessions, they are supposed to be monitoring and taking care of these children– unaccompanied and separated children.

Skip to 2 minutes and 13 seconds We recruit social workers by using different criteria. The first criteria is the educational background of the social workers in their home country. And the second criteria is the discipline they have. We cross-check with the existing social workers we have, and we see if they do have the kind of experience back in Eritrea if they work for different government and intergovernmental organisations in Eritrea, we just look after that. And we also consider the language capacity, more specifically for Kunamas and Tigrayans. There are ethnic minorities called Sahos and Tigres. For those, we don’t even consider their education qualification.

Skip to 2 minutes and 59 seconds We usually need them, the social workers, to be part of that ethnic group, so that is some of the criteria that we use to recruit the social workers. All of the centre workers or the para-social workers are from the refugee community in this operation.

Skip to 3 minutes and 27 seconds Children have multisectoral needs and multisectoral rights, so therefore we need to make sure there is multisectoral action or response to involve health services, teachers and education services, protection services, child protection authorities in general, which are being strengthened in Mexico, especially at the moment. And so that they all work together putting– again, putting the child in the centre. Because we need to also avoid that the child has to understand and figure out and then run around and to get all these services. To the extent that the services can come to the child and be well coordinated, it will help and ease the life and create a better situation for every child. It is particularly perhaps important for migrant children.

Skip to 4 minutes and 23 seconds In the UN, we have different mandates. We have different roles. We have different competencies. We need to put that together and not work in parallel for a more efficient response, to not to waste human and financial resources, and that we are all– within the United Nations, with civil society, with government actors– that we’re all working on the same common premises with the same objectives. In Mexico, since a few years back, there is a system for child protection in a sense, for protecting all the rights of children. That is a group of actors– all the relevant actors– that need to meet regularly, need to coordinate their action.

Skip to 5 minutes and 5 seconds And I think there’s no question– there’s no doubt that it’s absolutely essential that these actors meet and make sure that there is coherence, efficiency in the response to the children in whatever situation they find themselves. And that doesn’t matter– in Mexico, it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about a Mexican child or a foreign child who happens to be in Mexican territory because they have the same rights as the Mexican children.

Skip to 5 minutes and 38 seconds It took our country 24 years to create a system. And this means that for a long time the lack of coordination of those actors, is a factor that exacerbated the conditions of the violation of their rights.

Skip to 5 minutes and 56 seconds In this case, the situation of unaccompanied boys, girls, adolescents who travel through our country, needs the coordinated and articulated effort from those with different experiences of accompaniment and sheltering.

Who is responsible for case management

In the previous course step we have introduced you to case management and how it can help us assess and respond to the circumstances and needs of unaccompanied and separated children. Now let’s consider who is responsible for this process.

A case worker

In this video you will hear from child protection staff working in refugee camps in the district of Shire in the North of Ethiopia. These refugee camps are under the management of the Government of Ethiopia’s department of Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA). ARRA is supported by the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR.

We first hear from Addis Adam who is the Child Protection Team Leader for the NGO Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). Addis explains how unaccompanied and separated children in foster care or kinship care are each provided a case worker - a social worker. In the film you will see social workers - the case workers - visiting children in foster care and kinship care and their carers. They visit the children and their carers on a regular basis - on average three times a week - to continuously assess and review the protection and welfare of each child. Addis also speaks of the importance of training case workers in such subjects as case management, psychosocial concerns, and protection risks including Gender Based Violence (GBV). As well as their initial coaching case workers receive further training as well as a lot of guidance and careful supervision. We also hear about the use of UNHCR processes including Best Interest Assessment and Best Interest Determination.

In addition, we hear from Zibihel Hagus, Senior Child Protection Officer for Innovative Humanitarian Solutions. Zibihel talks about the competences case workers - in this instance social workers - should have.

In the video you will also hear from Christian Skoog, Representative of UNICEF Mexico. Christian tells us about the importance of multi-sectoral working. And finally, we hear from Daniel Ponce from the Government of Mexico. Mr Ponce is the Liaison Coordinator of the Executive Secretariat of the National System for the Comprehensive Protection of Children and Adolescents. He tells us how important it is that different organisations work in a coordinated manner within the national child protection system.

You may have a role to play in case management. It may be in your capacity as a social worker, or a health or education specialist working as part of an assessment team. You may be the person responsible for providing the alternative care placement. Perhaps you are another service provider to whom the child will be referred. Maybe you are a lawyer asked to represent the child.

There is, however, a need for someone to take overall coordination and responsibility of each child’s case - a case worker. Some organisations also call this person a key worker. This is someone who is ideally appointed at the time an unaccompanied or separated child - or an accompanied child for whom there are concerns they may be at risk of harm - first comes to the attention of a particular agency that will be responsible for their welfare. It could be a social worker, a care worker, or another professional from a government department. It might be an alternative care provider, or, in some instances, a legally appointed guardian. Or, it might be a worker from an NGO that is nominated by, or working in coordination with, a government agency. We will be discussing the importance of working together within a government-led child protection system later in the course.

Whoever the case worker is, it is recommended that, whenever possible, it is someone who keeps overall responsibility for coordination of a child’s care and protection, for as long as necessary. If you are a case worker, this should also provide you with the opportunity and time to build a strong and trusting relationship with the children you are responsible for.

Although we recognise this is not always possible, guidance published by the Global Protection Cluster recommends a case worker be responsible for no more that 25 children at any given time. You will appreciate that if you have to supervise too many cases you will not have time to develop the supportive and trusting relationship with a child that is so important.

A multi-sectoral approach

Although there may be a case worker with overall responsibility for a child, it is important we all work together. This way we can each contribute to the different steps of case management and provide the different expertise and services a child may need. Working together in this way is recognised as a multi-sectoral approach to case management.

This means the case worker should not have to do everything by themselves but should be supported and assisted in the assessment process by colleagues from different professions.

Please consider, however, that working together may require the sharing of confidential information, especially if we want to prevent children being asked the same questions over and over again. This is a topic we will cover in more detail next week.

It is recommended that case management is undertaken by well trained staff. This is important because not having the necessary skills to fully assess and make the correct decisions in a child’s best interests can result in negative consequences for their immediate and future well-being.

It is also important that children themselves fully participate in the case management process. We will discuss this topic in further detail later this week.

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This video is from the free online course:

Caring for Children Moving Alone: Protecting Unaccompanied and Separated Children

University of Strathclyde