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Meeting the challenge of unsuitable care setting

Video with examples of meeting the challenge of working in the context of unsuitable care settings.

In this video we hear from Rosalinda Castaldo who is a founding member of a non-governmental organisation called MetaCometa Onlus. MetaCometa is an Association that runs a foster care programme in Sicily. You will hear how the Association challenged the request from the local authorities to change their family-based care model into a programme based in a large residential institution.

In this video we also hear from Christina Baglietto, a Child Protection Consultant for UNICEF in Mexico and Regional Adviser for Latin America for International Social Service. You will hear Christina describe the work being undertaken in Mexico to help make positive changes to adapt and create suitable alternative care. In the video you will also see some images of care settings that are providing more suitable care for unaccompanied children in Mexico. These settings are providing opportunities for children and young people to integrate into the community, including a young man you will see in the video who has just graduated from school, and who was helped to find the employment he really wanted in a local barber shop. Please note that some of the images of the children have been obscured for protection reasons.

In reality, there are significant numbers of unaccompanied and separated children that find themselves in unsuitable care settings, sometimes for a long period of time. In this situation, we should do our best to secure children’s placements in more suitable setting as quickly as possible. This can often be a significant challenge as we are not always in a position to influence and change such situations for either an individual child or groups of children – especially if more suitable care is not easily available. Here are some ideas for you to consider:

  • Make sure each child is given individual attention and staff are professionally trained to address the emotional and psychosocial needs of children
  • Allow children to come and go freely – meaning they can move around and be part of the local community and are not kept isolated
  • Develop a working environment in which children are kept safe
  • Arrange the children’s living arrangements so they have some privacy, including somewhere to keep their own possessions
  • Improve the facilities so that children have warmth, hygiene, and other comfortable living conditions
  • Make sure the daily timetable for children focus on the needs of individual children rather than those of the staff
  • Employ qualified and motivated staff
  • Improve working conditions so that carers and other staff want to remain working in the organisation, and provide caring and constructive staff supervision. This constancy will help towards children forming attachments and relationships with their carer/s
  • Network and make linkages with colleagues and services who can provide access to specialist services, especially health, psychosocial support, special education needs, legal procedures etc.

Overcoming other obstacles

You might also try to advocate and lobby for change within your own and other organisations:

  • If you think the obstacles are due to local or national government policy or practice – at local or national level – work with others to advocate and lobby for change at the appropriate level of government
  • Use examples of promising practice to share and provide evidence of what is possible
  • Use your influence to increase cooperation between state-run organisations and NGOs, and between national-level organisations and locally-based ones
  • Identify colleagues in other organisations that share your concerns and might be willing to work with you to bring about change and to provide more suitable and protective alternative care and services for unaccompanied and separated children
  • Promote investment in building the knowledge of policy makers, and skills of service providers

If you have any other ideas, or examples of how positive changes in the provision of suitable care have been made in your country, we would love for you to tell us about them in the ‘Comments’ section below.

This article is from the free online

Caring for Children Moving Alone: Protecting Unaccompanied and Separated Children

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