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An example of foster care for unaccompanied and separated children

Video showing successful examples of foster care settings for unaccompanied and separated children on the move.
My name is Rachelle Haynes, and I’m a child protection officer for UNHCR in Ethiopia. We’ve been able to establish a foster care programme in a refugee setting for unaccompanied children In the beginning, we started with quite a few challenges. One of the first things that we found is that we needed to understand well the child care practises that existed in the children’s country of origin. How did the community care for children in that location? What were the factors that influenced individuals’ ability to care for a child, and how did that translate to the refugee environment?
So after holding several focus group discussions, we were able to better understand what it would take to decrease the barriers that individuals felt they would have in caring for a child that comes from their community, but might not necessarily be a relative or a kin. One of the challenges initially in providing care within our context is that many of the individuals are on the move. So establishing family-based care in an environment where people are on the move and where the family size is quite small was our number one challenge in the beginning.
We were able to see over time that we were able to tap into a group of individuals who had desires to stay within the country, and through small, cash-based interventions, very minor and not necessarily a significant cash, but enough that would help the family to be able to provide some basic needs for the children, we were able to increase the amount of individuals who were willing to care for children. Not as payment for their care, but in order to support the children with basic needs.
My name is Adiam Tekle and I work for UNICEF as a protection assistant. Here in our camp, we have kinship and foster care. This is for the reason that children have the right to live with their family. We have a foster care programme and this was initiated in 2004 for the purpose that a lot of unaccompanied children were coming to our camp and children were placed in community care. So this was creating bad situations for the children. So we initiated this programme and the selection activity is done by the child welfare committee. This committee works with the child protection collaboratively and our refugee representatives from different associations.
So this committee will mobilise the community on the importance of reunifying their relatives, caring children, and what the purpose of the reunification is. A lot of refugees will be in shelters to reunify their relatives in their villages, and then they will be registered by the CWC, and this will be shared to RCC who are the representative of the refugee in the ARRA who is the representative of the government. And then this to-, the ARRA in RCC will make the assessment on the selected or registered potential foster caregivers, to see or assess their discipline and their protection, if they have protection issues. And then after this assessment, then it will be shared to NRC and NRC will know the verification part.
After the verification, children will be reunified or living with their foster parent. This is how the selection is. And while they’re selecting, they have a criteria. This criteria is shared to the CWC and is informed to the community, and this criteria includes the family must be above 25. And they must be a family, because they will be easy to care child. And they must have the moral value to get a child. And they must have a social capital so that the child– a new child is coming to their home, so they must have a social capital. And the family size is also mandatory. So this idea created.
Based on this criteria the volunteers will be registered, and the verification would be done by RRC, and then advancing to the final stage. And then the reunification will take place.
My name is Yibeyin Hagos and I’m a senior child protection officer for Innovative Humanitarian Solutions in Shimelba refugee camp. We select foster carers with different criterias. For instance, we do have a criteria; the foster carers should be willing to care for the child in the first place, and that foster carers have got, should have a kind of healthy, family relationship with the surroundings, and that foster carers should be even a family, rather than a single individual and something like that. We use different criteria. We deliver training for foster carers and kinship carers, too, about better parenting skills especially. We have targeted 100 families for this year.
So we usually organise that training to how to be a better family for a child, whether it could be a foster child or kinship care children. We just give that training. It has got its own sessions. There is a manual I can share you. There are about five sessions about how to behave your child, how to be an exemplary parent and something like that. So we usually deliver that training for foster and kinship carers.
Especially when the child is a new arrival, the social workers conduct registration. We do have a rigid standard registration format from UNHCR and also they conduct the best interest assessment, still the standardised best interest assessment formats from UNHCR for new arrivals. After one day registering, we conduct the best interest assessment. They usually see how things are going in the home, whether the child is attending school or not. If not, they will report to us, and we just learn the issue with the implementing partners who are working in the education sector. And we follow up the kids to resume their education, the children’s education.
And also they oversee the condition of the house, the health concern of the child, different protection concerns actually. And whether there is abuse or not. It might be labour abuse, and some kind of abuses. They usually check out how things are going in the camp. I mean, in the particular home. And if there is any protection concern with that child, they will revert back to us. They will inform us, and we will work together. And if the issue is handled by themselves, they usually handle it by their own. These are the activities usually conducted by the social workers regarding the foster carers or the kinship carers.
The social workers might have 20 to 25 cases in our care, our refugee camp. In principle we believe that the social workers should visit the foster carers or the child every three days, especially when the child has got a special protection concern. We have even seen the social workers in everyday basis. They usually follow the issue at hand, and usually in every week, in every week, social workers should see at least once, the family under his or her supervision.

In this video you will see an example of a foster care programme that has been developed in the context of refugee camps in the district of Shire in Northern Ethiopia. These camps are home to refugees from Eritrea. There are significant numbers of unaccompanied and separated children crossing the border from Eritrea into Ethiopia on a regular basis. The programmes in the camps are a result of partnerships between the Government of Ethiopia’s department of Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and UN and NGOs. These agencies include the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), UNICEF, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and Innovative Humanitarian Solutions (IHS).

In the video we hear from Richelle Haines, Child Protection Officer for UNHCR in Ethiopia. Richelle tells us about some of the steps that were taken to develop foster care in the refugee camps. One of the important topics we hear about is that of ensuring cultural and contextual applicability of foster care. It reminds us of how we should be mindful of any cultural setting and how this can effect the acceptance of foster care. Richelle also explains possible challenges and some ways to overcome them.

We then hear from Adiam Tekle, Protection Assistant, UNHCR Field Office, Hitsats refugee camp. Adiam tells us how the foster care programme functions in Hitsats camp, including the role of the child welfare committee (CFW). The CFW is made up of members of the refugee community and plays an important role raising awareness and mobilising support for the foster programme. Adiam explains how different agencies, including the department of Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), work together with the Refugee Community Committee (RCC), UNHCR and NGOs. She also explains how foster carers are selected. Yibeyin Hagos, Senior Child Protection for Innovative Humanitarian Solutions also explains the criteria used during the selection process of foster carers in Shimelba refugee camp. During the video, you will see different unaccompanied children and their foster carers who are living in the camps.

We would like to thank the UNHCR office in Shire for helping to facilitate the filming in the camps.

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Caring for Children Moving Alone: Protecting Unaccompanied and Separated Children

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