Monday, 22 Sep 2014

Intervention with a focus on preserving family and community ties

How do we intervene in cases of family neglect and physical violence?

In 2008, we conducted a survey which found that one of the main places of origin of children, teenagers and young people living on the streets in Rio de Janeiro was the Mangueirinha Community, situated in Duque de Caxias. With a population of 8,000 inhabitants, this is considered one of the most violent areas of the Baixada Fluminense.

We have developed our Local Roots Programme (LRP) with a view to changing this situation, bringing together projects from the perspective of psychosocial support, care for children (2-7 years old), empowerment of young people, the generation of income and political advocacy, thus benefiting 175 children and adolescents from 40 families within the community. The activities carried out encourage the strengthening of family and community ties, creating spaces for socialisation, autonomy and the construction of identities, allowing family groups to assert themselves as participatory entities, able to exercise their rights.

Our LRP team undertakes the task of providing psychosocial support to the families, which includes visits and meetings, at the project headquarters or residence, with family members responsible for the children. Another activity are the home visits; these are made in order to understand the context within the family and the surrounding community networks and services. These activities complement intervention from the perspective of strengthening prevention, the protection of family and community ties and the interruption of possible violations of human rights.

We share the methodology of working with families based on systemic thinking, which considers the family a group of people with an interdependent relationship, promoting each family member’s development. Genogram and eco-map software are used to map the supported child’s network of relationships and significant ties. It is understood that these processes can only be carried out in partnership with the family who, together with the technical team, implements a Plan of Action so that the family group may review, expand and improve its relationship dynamics, contributing to positive changes in the lives of all family members.

33-year-old DL, came to LRP in 2011, at the suggestion of another family member. D needed to find a space that could accommodate her three sons: 6-year-old A, 4-year-old JV and 3-year-old PH – bearing in mind that they were not enrolled in any school or child development centre. The LRP team, through its “Imagination Space”* project, received the children with open arms, while guiding D on how to put her children in school.

“My children are very mischievous, but the Imagination Space is helping me. The project is very important” – Mother participating in the project

According to D, her children were very restless and she found it difficult educating them with due care, often using physical violence as a way to correct and educate them. Today, the team has observed that this attitude is gradually being minimised because of the educational activities carried out using the methodology of play between parents and children. This action, based on the strengthening family ties, has also produced changes in the behaviour of other parents.

“My children are very mischievous, but the Imagination Space is helping me. The project is very important and my children are always asking me: “Mum, do we have the project today?” since they go there in the morning and go to school in the afternoon.” D said. She agrees with reports from the professionals involved with the children which note that when they first came to the Imagination Space, they were very introverted during activities and found it difficult to socialise and use materials and toys.


Through the mediation of teachers and the monitoring of the family, the children showed a significant improvement in terms of their participation in the proposals put forward and their interaction with other adults and children.

For Rose Magalhães, “Imagination Space” teacher and coordinator, “co-existence with other children contributes to a continuous process of early childhood development, expanding the possibilities for a new view of the world.”

Using this community-based action, we aim to demonstrate that intervention at an early age in violent urban communities can contribute to a process of relationship transformation. Our goal is to encourage community participation in the pursuit of key public services and the dissemination of values that promote quality of life. LRP’s relations with the public authorities are on-going and, through its projects, provide dissemination of good practice to government stakeholders.

*The “Imagination Space” carries out play and recreational activities with children aged 2-7 at the programme headquarters. Its actions encourage discovery, creativity and the construction of the child’s autonomy, by using different types of language (conversation rounds, storytelling, music, games and jokes), thus contributing to a healthier family and community life.