This article comes from Gillian, MRO’s Battambang Team Advisor, shares her first hand experience working with Reintegration forms and Care Leavers.
Today I am going to attend a ‘real practice for reintegration’. It is called a ‘real’ practice as it involves a real case, with real people, in a real community.
We meet at a Residential Care Institute to interview the young man who is aging out of care. There are about 20 of us – various orphanages and NGOs are represented to learn how to complete form number two – family assessment form – of the six government forms (down from 20+).
After a round of introductions, the soon-to-be Care Leaver arrives for his interview. This is to model the types of questions to ask, how to get this Care Leaver’s understanding of what is happening and why, and to get a feel of how much they understand about living out of the center, what their rights are, how they might get help, what plant they have to support themselves, etc.
After the initial to-ing and fro-ing, the young man is asked how he feels about the potential move. He says he is frightened – frightened that the extended family won’t want him, or will not let him work outside the house, and what will he do if they make life unbearable – where would he go? And how will he see his brothers and sisters who are still living in the home – the village is far from the city and he won’t have transport?
The Caseworker reassures him. He will have choices. She lists some of the other choices – one is to find an NGO who could support a group home arrangement for him and his siblings to live back in the community where they have a family. Or they would work to find another relative or someone else in the community who would support him to live there. She assures him again that he would get to choose. (They don’t get to do much of that in an orphanage – you get what you are given whether it is food, the shirt, and shoes, and have little opportunity for learning independent decision making.)
As she talks I can see him begin to relax. Even after he leaves the institution, he knows that he can call someone to help and that he has choices and support. He is assured that he can contact her for if he has any questions.
Then the group piled into a van and onto motorbikes (excluding the soon-to-be Care Leaver) and travel to the village to fill out the family assessment form. The Village Chief and other government officials will all be present too, as the decisions to be made affects the whole village, not just one family.
The six-page form is comprehensive, looking at the basic rights of a child to adequate food, shelter, education, access to health care, etc. It is on a sliding scale from inadequate to more than adequate. If there is something assessed as inadequate, this is then something to talk about, and find out how to rectify, firstly within the community itself, then with government support, and as a last resort, an outside NGO.
Educating the community as well as the Care Leavers is essential for successful reintegration. It is a process, and even after the Care Leaver is living in the community, follow up visits need to happen – usually for two years, at increasing intervals.
Oh, the joy when children can live in the community, with their families.