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Working in a child friendly manner (Part 2)

Video with Gerald Imbali and Gurvinder Singh.
So you have travelled through multiple countries, had so many experiences, a lot of difficulties. On your journey, you are meeting different people. Can you tell us about that? Was there anything that stands out for you in the people that you met that were trying to help? I travelled a lot, and I met several people. Different cultures, different languages. I also developed a sort of trust. After I was rescued from the seaside by this lady, Teresa, which was working with Medecins Sans Frontieres, after rescuing me, told me Gerald, you are safe. I realised that I was really safe. Because I started seeing some care, and I started seeing that dignity exist.
So it means I regained the dignity and respect, the rights that I supposed to have. That is where I really trusted. So it depends on the situation. It was on arrival at the end of rescue that I really knew that I have to trust people. What you’re saying, I mean, it’s so important for all front line workers to know that if they listen, if they have the training and skills to protect the children they’re working with, they can make a really significant difference for that child.
Sense of dignity, sense of safety, and the direction that they take, knowing that someone is there that cares for me, that’s willing to help, someone who’s screened, who is safe, and is a helping hand. And really, that’s what every child we know deserves around the world, that they all deserve to be safe. And all deserve a chance to flourish and to be their best self. And frontline workers have such an important role in doing that. The best thing to do, frontline workers really need to get into that. Because while doing that, they give back dignity and respect to migrants and minors unaccompanied. Yeah, I’m Sylvia Gomez, and I’m the global advocacy coordinator of the International Detention Coalition.
So it was back in 2014. I was part of a team working in Malta as the first response to the Mediterranean arrival of migrants through the Mediterranean route into Europe. On that specific day, I met two kids, two unaccompanied kids who were travelling together. They were a 12-year-old and a 10-year-old. They were cousins. And they had been travelling throughout– from Syria, actually, like the whole journey together. So they ended up in Malta. They luckily survived the shipwreck. They arrived to Malta. They were detained in the detention centre for a couple of hours. And then as they were identified as unaccompanied minors, they were sent to the shelter, to the open centres that Malta was providing for unaccompanied children.
And so the transfer to that centre was done in a police car. So all these very criminalised, very enforcement-like environment. So me and one of my colleagues were the first people in touch with those kids. So we actually went with them into the police car. We just thought, and it was mostly like a human feeling, a gut feeling, we just thought there is no way that these two kids, a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old, are going to end up in a police car right after having been through all the journey, and then the shipwreck. The transfer was like 10, 15 minutes maximum, the ride to the open centre.
We managed to create quite easily a nice environment where we felt they were kind of relaxed, and we were just kind of pretending that we were not surrounded by an absolutely criminalising environment. And then at some point– and I thought it was actually very impressive because it was a 12-year-old being able to identify that and to communicate that– he just look at me and he thanked me, and he told me that it was the first time throughout the journey that he felt welcome somewhere. And he actually said, I think I’m going to like Malta a lot because I feel welcome here, I feel wanted here.
So it is striking to think that a 12-year-old needs that so much, that he’s just saying that to somebody he just met five minutes, ten minutes ago.

In the course last week we thought about the steps of case management and who might be involved in the process. What is important to children, however, is not just how we implement the steps of case management, but the trusting, child friendly manner in which we should work with children to fulfill these steps.

In this video, we hear Gerald Mballe, who is a volunteer with the Red Cross, speaking with Gurvinder Singh, who is the Child Protection Advisor for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC). Gerald speaks about the importance of feeling trusted by a care worker he met on his journey as an unaccompanied child.

We also hear from Silvia Gomez, who is the Global Advocacy Coordinator for the International Detention Coalition (IDC). Silvia tells us about her experience meeting an unaccompanied child and the importance that child placed on being treated with kindness.

We see that issues of trust and respect, being made to feel safe and genuinely cared for, are an important aspect of the relationship children have with the people they come into contact with. This approach applies to all of us – if, for example, we are border guards, police, social workers, alternative care providers, guardians, translators, cultural mediators, doctors, teachers, judges, lawyers, or someone else with a responsibility towards a child.

Some ways we can work in a child friendly manner include:

  • Always communicate and respond in a child friendly, caring, and trusting manner – and do not communicate in ways that seem authoritarian
  • Do everything possible to avoid working with children in a way that could stigmatise, frighten, or endanger them
  • Understand, respect, and be sensitive to such aspects of a child’s life as personal history, family relations, and cultural, religious, and social background
  • Be gender sensitive
  • Be respectful of such aspects of children’s lives as sexual orientation and/or gender identity
  • Meet in a child friendly place or space that is comfortable, safe and private
  • Do not work with children in public places where it may attract attention of others – in particular people who would try to exploit them
  • Make sure a child knows who you are, your role, why you are meeting, and what will happen afterwards
  • Remember to provide a child with all the information they need – in a manner appropriate to their age and other capacities – about their rights and entitlements, as well as the processes and procedures they may have to go through
  • Be clear about what is not possible and give a child time to think about what you have told them
  • Sense if a child is comfortable talking to you, reassure them, and give them a feeling of control about what is happening
  • Show empathy, express positive feelings, and explore the things they want to talk about
  • Let a child know you will respect confidentiality and only share personal information about them with others who need the information in order to support and protect them
  • Allow sufficient time to meet with them
  • Truly listen to them
  • Use and adapt different methods of communication that are appropriate for the age and capacities of the child, for example talking, drawing, painting, or playing
  • Do not pressurise a child and find other ways to seek information and verification about any subjects they find difficult to speak about – use child friendly materials and tools
  • Recognise when a child shows signs of distress
  • Take time to answer any questions a child may have, and at the end of a meeting, confirm that they understand what will happen next

The ‘See Also’ section below has links to other reading material that may be of interest to you.

This article is from the free online

Caring for Children Moving Alone: Protecting Unaccompanied and Separated Children

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