Reintegrating children into their families

8 Jun, 2015

New global guidelines for the reintegration of children are currently being drafted following a meeting of the inter-agency group in New York in May. Family met with over twenty partners – UN agencies, international and national organisations, donors, networks – who work with children around the world to share ideas, expertise and experiences.

Each year, millions of children around the world are separated from their families because of poverty, abuse and neglect, migration, and conflict and disasters.  Many of them end up on the streets, in detention, living with employers, or in alternative care, including institutional care.

Around the world, UN agencies, NGOs and governments all strive to reintegrate children back into their families and communities so that they can grow up in a safe and caring environment.

However, for the reintegration to be successful and permanent, it needs to be carried out through a sound process, ensuring that the child is ready to be reunited with his family, that the family is prepared to welcome the child, and that there is good follow-up support after the reunification process.

But whilst good practices exist, in many instances, the return of these often traumatised children to their home and communities is carried out with almost no preparation – which can pose a risk to the safety of the child, often even leading to the child separating from his or her family again.

With funding support from the GHR Foundation, we have been leading the efforts to develop accessible guidance for reintegration; pooling the knowledge of international organisations (such as USAID, UNICEF and Retrak) with that of national NGOs (such as Juconi Mexico, ECPAT and TDH India). We believe that, if widely implemented,  we can improve the way in which children are returned to their families and, more importantly, ensure that they stay with their families and grow up in a safe and caring environment.

The New York meeting was a crucial step in this process of developing strong, relevant, and accessible global guidelines. Some very interesting points and ideas were discussed, including the group wanting to ensure that the guidelines emphasize listening to children, so that they can play a more decisive role when it comes to their care. The first draft will reviewed at the end of July.

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