IMPLEMENTING BEST PRACTICE IN THE CARE OF CHILDREN (cont.)
PRACTICE FIVE: SMALL FAMILY-LIKE RESIDENTIAL CARE
When all other forms of family and community based care options on the continuum have been deemed not in the best interest of the individual child, then residential care might be the most appropriate option. Preference should be given to small family like facilities that adhere to high standards of care, are legally registered, have qualified staff, good child protection policies, and facilitate the child to continue to participate in community and cultural life outside of the residential care centre.
PRACTICE SIX: SOUND REINTEGRATION AND REUNIFICATION PROGRAMS
All forms of residential care should have a reintegration program that helps each child develop a plan to ensure they are able to be reintegrated into the community as soon as possible. This plan should be developed as soon as a child enters care and should be overseen and monitored by a competent staff member.
Each child should at minimum have an annual review to determine if they are ready to be reintegrated. If they’re not ready, their reintegration plan should be updated and continually implemented.
Many residential care centres talk of reintegration as the act of leaving care at 18 years old. In fact, reintegration is not an event. It is a process and it should not exclusively be used as a way to graduate children who reach 18 out of the home. It should be the goal for every child as soon as it is in their best interest, in accordance with the accepted standard that residential care should be ‘temporary’.
PRACTICE SEVEN: ONGOING MONITORING
All alternative care placements should be monitored regularly to ensure children are safe and well integrated into the family and community. Good monitoring prevents potential abuse and mistreatment as well as acts as a preventative measure against placement breakdown. This is because any issues that are causing the child or the family stress can be identified early on and addressed before placement breakdown becomes imminent. Monitoring should be undertaken by trained and competent staff members who have developed a good relationship with the child and family.
GOOD PRACTICE IN ACTION: FAMILY STRENGTHENING IN CAMBODIA
Sitha lived with her husband and three children in a rural community in Cambodia. When Sitha’s husband passed away from AIDS she was unable to provide for her children and her relatives convinced her to take her children to an orphanage.
“It ripped my heart out to leave them. When I took them to the orphanage in Phnom Penh, the organisation gave me $30 and a bag of rice and I gave them my children. When I handed my baby over, I was standing there crying”.
The orphanage director took Sitha’s three children into the orphanage. Before Sitha had walked away the orphanage director returned and told Sitha to take her children for one more night while they found another carer. Sitha took her children home and never went back. She returned to her community with no solutions to the poverty she was facing.
Kinnected partner, Children in Families (CIF) heard about Sitha’s situation. By applying several of the best practice principles, staff were able to assess the family’s real needs and provide appropriate support to strengthen and preserve Sitha’s family. This included addressing the underlying poverty issues by digging a well which allowed her to start a small pig farm and grow vegetables. CIF also provided medication to Sitha and assisted her children to go to school.
Simple family strengthening initiatives such as these are often all it takes to prevent the needless separation and institutionalisation of children and should be the first response to families in crisis.
Poverty should never be the only justification for the removal of a child from parental care, rather a signal to provide support for the family.
(UN Guidelines on Alternative Care).