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Working in a child friendly manner (Part 1)

The importance of working in a child friendly manner with unaccompanied and separated children on the move.
A young girl wearing a religious head covering, green jumper and jeans is standing next to a female UNICEF worker who is kneeling down so she is at eye level with the girl. The woman holds a puppet in her right hand and is speaking to the young girl.

Now let us think about how important it is to work in a child friendly manner when implementing the steps of case management. And please remember the principles we have just considered in the last course steps.

When we were developing this course, young people who had been unaccompanied and separated children on the move told the course creators about the importance of being respected, listened to, and having workers that cared about them. They stressed how they lacked the same emotional support and practical network of help that children who stay with their families receive. Although they understand there are professional boundaries, some children and young people said they would have liked a relationship with their case worker to be similar to that of a supportive parent.

Believing they may not be cared for or trusted, some children may decide not to seek our support or accept the care, protection and other services they are entitled to. This is a decision that could then place them in dangerous and difficult circumstances, including greater risk of exploitation and abuse. So it is not just how we fulfill the different steps of case management that is important, but the reassuring and child friendly manner in which we carry them out.

In a recent UNICEF survey, 38% of children and young people said they had not received any help from organisations, friends, or family during their journey. Only 5% said they received help from NGOs. It could be that lack of trust in care and support workers has contributed to this very high number of children not getting the support they needed. You can see the interactive results of the survey here.

One step to addressing these concerns, and part of building a relationship with a child, is taking the time to better understand and appreciate their personal circumstances and experiences – including the reasons they may avoid or resist our offers of assistance. These reasons might include:

  • Having come from very difficult home and community environments
  • Being afraid of anyone in authority or uniform if they have endured war, persecution, dictatorship or police violence, for example
  • Having experienced harsh treatment and exploitation when crossing borders, while travelling, and where they were accommodated
  • No longer trusting anyone and being afraid of providing accurate information or being identified as unaccompanied
  • Being frightened of the authorities, and especially those working in the migration system
  • Not knowing about, or understanding, the support they can get from child protection and alternative care systems
  • Being concerned they will not be allowed to continue with their planned journey
  • Being under the influence of smugglers or traffickers who tell them to lie
  • Wishing to follow their parents’ instructions to continue their migration journey without delay
  • Being influenced by others they are travelling with
  • Travelling with their families and experiencing abuse and neglect, but being worried about the consequences of making a complaint about ill-treatment

Whatever your role may be, please do think about these circumstances and how they might affect the unaccompanied and separated children you come into contact with.

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Caring for Children Moving Alone: Protecting Unaccompanied and Separated Children

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