A woman wearing a blue vest is standing in a circle with young children all around her. They are playing a game where they put there right hand into the circle.
UNICEF and Plan International have set up a tent called the “Happiness Plan” which is a child-friendly space at the Binational Border Service Centre in Tumbes, on Peru’s northern border with Ecuador. The tent is filled with board games, crayons and books.

Poll: Child friendly practice

In previous course steps, we have considered how many children are reluctant to accept our support, especially if they think they will not be treated in a child friendly manner, or be trusted or cared for. The concern is that children then place themselves in dangerous circumstances and at greater risk of exploitation. So, for example, it is not just a matter of working through the steps of case management that is imporant, but the way in which we fulfill them.

Voting in the poll has now closed. Read further for Chrissie’s analysis of the poll results.

From the five scenarios below you were asked to choose two that you think most represent examples of best child friendly practice:

  1. A 10 year old boy has crossed a border with a group of people who are unrelated to him. He is crying and tries to explain to a frontline worker that the man he has been travelling with is not a relation and has been cruel to him. The worker tries to comfort the child and stop him crying. They give the child toys to play with. But then they hand him back to the man he has been speaking about, while telling the child everything will be all right.

  2. An unaccompanied 17 year old boy has just experienced a dangerous sea crossing. After landing, the official sent to take his details makes the boy wait for almost 7 hours before speaking with him. The boy sits in a room that is warm and nicely decorated. He is given food and a warm drink by a volunteer. The official offers the boy a leaflet that explains the asylum seeking process in the country. The official is quite abrupt and does not listen carefully to what the boy is saying. The official tells the boy he will be sent to a transit centre.

  3. An unaccompanied girl aged 14 is waiting to complete a refugee registration process and a best interests determination assessment. While she is waiting, she is taken to a warm, colourful room, with lots of paintings and posters on the walls. She is asked if she would like to join in any of the activities that three members of staff are carefully organising with the children. The staff are making sure they interact with the children in an age appropriate manner. The activities provide the young girl an opportunity to interact with other children. She can choose from a range of activities including drawing, playing games, reading and playing a musical instrument.

  4. A separated girl aged 10 is travelling with an uncle. The child wants to be reunified with her grandmother, who she thinks is living in a nearby refugee camp. The case worker carefully reassures the child they will do everything they can to trace the grandmother as quickly as possible. However, the case worker then only speaks with the uncle. The uncle does not want the child to go and stay with the grandmother. When the child is told by the case worker that she must respect the wishes of her elders and stay with her uncle, although she is visibly upset, no one offers her any comfort or explains why this decision has been reached.

  5. A 15 years old boy has been rescued from a sinking boat out in the middle of the ocean. When he is taken on board a rescue boat, he is provided a dry set of clothes and given a hot drink and something to eat. One of the officials on board sits with the boy and asks him if he is all right and if there is anything else she can get him. The official explains to the boy that she needs to ask him some questions. The boy indicates that he does not speak the same language and does not understand. The official looks through her bag and brings out a set of information sheets in different languages. She shows them to the boy and he takes the one he can read in his own language. The official then indicates she will come back later when there is a interpreter with her. The official makes sure that other staff on the boat are aware of the nationality of the young boy and finds a volunteer who will take responsibility to carefully look after him.

Results

Child (age) % of votes
10 year old boy 2%
17 year old boy 2%
14 year old girl 97%
10 year old girl 1%
15 year old boy 97%

Chrissie’s analysis of the poll results

Thank you to everyone who took part in this poll. As you will see from the results, there was overwhelming agreement that scenarios 3 and 5 best represented examples of best child friendly practice. A great result as it means we have a shared understanding of this topic. To illustrate your feedback, I have taken some examples of the comments you posted.

In the case of the 14 year old girl, Hellen from Kenya noted how ‘the space she was waiting in had been created to make it feel child friendly’, and Alan from Scotland wrote how the children in both scenarios 3 and 5 were made to ‘feel safe and supported’. Eunice from Kenya also chose scenario ‘3 & 5 because of the child friendly environment, care givers listen to what the child is saying’.

Zachary from Nicaragua noted how scenario 3 illustrated the importance of providing a child with the opportunity to ‘communicate and express their feelings ‘ and the primary role a good interpreter plays. Norma from Mexico agrees that we should provide an ‘interpreter who can speak the child’s language’ so that in a stressful situation they ‘can communicate and express needs and concerns and have answers ‘ to their questions. In this respect, Hanzell from Nicaragua highlighted the need to keep children ‘informed about the next steps coming’ and Kate from Australia noted how none of the volunteers/officials in these two scenarios ‘made promises to the child’. This is important if promises are only used to pacify a child but cannot be kept.

Nyamwiza from Uganda tells us how these scenarios highlight why as child protection actors we consider the best interests of the child. She was concerned how in scenario 4, the workers did not ‘explore why the child doesn’t want to stay with the uncle. You might find the child is exploited and abused in the hands of the uncle.’ In addition she said that if case workers involve children in decision making they should also ‘give them reasons for the decisions made’.

Abdulhaq from Afghanistan said that scenarios 3 and 5 illustrated how ‘unaccompanied and separated children who are not in their own country and culture should always receive full support from us that is non judgmental, non discriminatory and we should treat them with respect, compassion, kindness, dignity and care.’

Alvira from Spain believes that unfortunately scenario 2 in particular, happens very often and illustrates how fulfilling an asylum information protocol in a mechanical way does not guarantee that the young person will understand his / her rights effectively. The long waits in administrative spaces (prosecutors, commissariats, offices, …) are common and show little sensitivity to the young person’s experiences at a time when they should be encouraged to talk about it.’

Once again many thanks for taking the time to participate in the poll and it has been very interesting reading your reactions.

June 20th is World Refugee Day. New statistics released by UNHCR claim there are now over 70 million people on the move worldwide. Many of these are children. According to the British Council, every single minute 20 people leave their homes to escape war or terror. Again many of these are children. This highlights the vast amount of work we still have to do to ensure all these children receive the best possible response and support provided in a child friendly manner from all those they come into contact with.

Thank you

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This article is from the free online course:

Caring for Children Moving Alone: Protecting Unaccompanied and Separated Children

University of Strathclyde