A very young girl in a bright orange skirt and a very young boy in a red shirt are outside a building with wire on the roof and graffiti on the white cement wall. The graphic is arabic writing with a silhouette of a person holding flags.
Migrant children walk outside a detention centre, located in Libya. Conditions at the centre are poor, with dozens of people crowded into small spaces on old mattresses. They are locked in their rooms for almost 24 hours per day.

Poll: Unsuitable care

In previous course steps we have considered the different factors that make a care setting suitable or unsuitable.

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 suitable alternative care:

  1. A small NGO has set up an emergency shelter for people who have been rescued from dangerous sea crossings. The shelter is situated about 30 miles inland from the coast in a small and remote village which has upset the local residents. The shelter accommodates up to 150 people. There is a separate accommodation block for unaccompanied children. However, during the day everyone uses the same common areas for eating and recreation. In total 50 children of all ages - male and female - are staying together in the shelter. There are 3 staff who are from the local village. Although these staff members are very kind and well meaning, they do not have any specific training in child protection and child welfare. They play with the children and make sure they are fed, get washed, and have sufficient clothing. Unaccompanied children might stay in the shelter for many months while they wait for a legal decision whether they can remain in the country or not.

  2. Santi is a 4 year old child staying with her mother in a detention centre. The detention centre has a separate block for families. Santi’s mother was placed in the detention centre as soon as she crossed a land border wishing to claim asylum. The mother cares for Santi very much and does everything she can to make sure there is enough for her to eat, she is kept warm and safe, and has a comfortable place to sleep. Santi’s mother has been waiting in the detention centre for 3 months now, but has had no information about her asylum application.

  3. Gio is approaching his 18th birthday. He is living in alternative care. He is now being supported by a national NGO that has been authorised by the local social services department to manage a semi-independent living project. The project will help Gio move from his current alternative care placement to an apartment when he becomes 18 years old. Because the project subsidises the rent for the first 6 months, the apartment is available at a very low cost. Each apartment is shared by two young people. Gio has been introduced to the other young man he will be sharing with. This gave Gio and the other young man the opportunity to meet each other and agree they would be able to share the apartment. Before moving into the apartment, Gio has been assigned a new case worker. The role of the case worker will be to work with Gio’s previous case worker to support Gio through the transition from full-time care to eventual independent living. The case worker spends time getting to know Gio. Together they assess all the things Gio will need to know, and the practical skills he will need to learn such as cooking, shopping, washing clothes etc. before he moves into the apartment. They prepare a leaving care plan. The case worker makes sure Gio receives the skills and any other information he may need. Gio is also being helped find a job. After Gio moves into his new apartment, his case worker visits him every 2 weeks. However, in case of an emergency, Gio can phone his case worker at any time.

  4. Adam is a 15 year old unaccompanied child who has walked across many countries before arriving in the country he would now like to stay in permanently. Adam is in foster care. He has been here for 5 months. He left his family because they could not afford his education and there was no available work. Adam felt desperate and as though he had no future. Although he loved his family, because he could not contribute financially to the household, he felt obliged to leave. Adam’s foster carers are kind but they are not receiving any support from the foster agency that recruited them. There are language difficulties as Adam has not had time to learn their language. In addition, Adam has nightmares that leave him visibly upset throughout the day. They don’t know how to communicate with Adam or how to help him. With a third person in the household, they are now struggling financially. This is putting a lot of stress on the foster carers who are starting to have serious doubts about whether to continue to foster Adam.

  5. Mia is a separated 14 year old child who is waiting to be reunified with her aunt. She has been staying in an emergency transit centre for a week until all the reunification details can be checked, verified, and approved by an officially appointed agency. The centre is a large house that has been turned into two very separate sections. One section provides accommodation for up to ten children aged between 13 years and 17 years old. The other provides accommodation for up to twenty young people aged 18 to 25 years old. Each bedroom has two children in it, and Mia shares with another girl who is the same age as her. The section of the accommodation Mia is staying in has a team of 15 staff who work on shifts. They have different skills including a psychosocial specialist, a lawyer, teachers, social workers, and carers. The centre has an open door policy which means Mia can come and go freely. Although she has only been in the centre for a week, she has already been enrolled in language classes. Mia is also happy to be going to a local sports centre with other girls from the centre. Mia likes the trained case worker she has been assigned. The case worker keeps Mia regularly updated about the reunification process, and makes sure this is still what she wants. Even though it is hoped Mia will only stay in the centre for a very short time, the case worker has developed a care plan together with Mia. This is helping Mia understand everything she is entitled to while she stays in the centre, as well as updates on the reunification process.

Results

Alternative Care Situation % of votes
Emergency Shelter 5%
4 year old Santi in Detention Centre 5%
18 year old Gio in Semi-Independent Living 93%
15 year old Adam in Foster Care 3%
14 year old Mia in Emergency Transit 95%

Chrissie’s analysis of the poll results

Thank you to everyone for taking time to vote in the poll.

Firstly let me apologise because of the technical fault that meant not all of you were directed to the correct course page to vote. Thank you to everyone who brought this to our attention.

Overwhelmingly you voted for scenario 3 and 5 as being illustrations of more suitable care. In scenario 3, Gio is being fully supported to make the transition from full time alternative care to independent living. The provision of an apartment with a lower rent for the first 6 months will help Gio initially live without too much financial stress. He will not be completely alone as he has a flat mate. Most importantly he was not just placed with his flat mate but was given the opportunity to meet him and make sure this is someone he could share a space with. The additional support Gio will receive and the Plan that has been developed means it is not just an abrupt move from an alternative care setting where he had been constantly supported, to one where he has to cope alone. This can be a terrible shock for some young people especially if they have had everything done for them in the past and may not have even the most basic understanding of how to cook for themselves etc. This will allow Gio to gradually and carefully move towards total independence.

In scenario 5, although Mia is in a large centre which is not ideal, the centre has made efforts to provide some living conditions that contribute to a more acceptable care setting. This includes bedrooms shared with just one other child and age segregated sections. The open door policy means children are not detained and cut off from the local community. There is a range of professional psychosocial and other support being made available. Most importantly, Mia is being provided regular information about the reunification process and her views are being taken into account. In addition, every effort is being made to make sure Mia stays in the centre for the shortest time possible.

I am very interested that a few of you voted for scenario 2 - the detention centre. As we have discussed in the course, children should never be placed in detention simply because of their migration status and States should never use detention centres as places of alternative care. Likewise, a few voted for the emergency shelter. Although the staff are kind, there were no other conditions or services that met the criteria for suitable alternative care. Again, although we have seen many course participants favour family-based care, we can see from scenario 4 that this form of care also has to be provided to a standard that meets all the suitability criteria. In this scenario this case was not happening.

Once again, many thanks for all your participation in the poll and for the interesting comments you also posted on course step 5.12.

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