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New study released on children’s reintegration

Retrak has contributed to a new study on the processes of reintegrating children who have been separated from their families.

‘Greater attention on the prolonged process of reintegration is required to fully meet the needs and circumstances of vulnerable children’ according to new research. In the multi-agency document, Reaching for Home, researchers from the Interagency Group on Reintegration identify steps that have proved successful when reintegrating children back into their families. The report represents a significant move forward by organisations including Retrak to create a standard blueprint for practitioners working with marginalised young people.

Reaching for home - Reintegration Study

The paper calls for a more ‘codified’ approach and also highlights the need to respect each individual child’s journey and adapt programmes according to different contexts. Retrak’s work with street children highlights different situations in which children are separated from their families; some are due to conflict, trafficking, internal migration or institutionalisation.

‘Defining the space in which reintegration occurs, as well as the overall objectives, should be the first step for practitioners,’ according to the study. It continues: ‘The ultimate goal of reintegration is not just the sustained placement of the child with family members, but instead concerns itself with the child being on a path to a happy, healthy adulthood.’

Guidelines on Reintegration

Retrak’s work with street children already incorporates many of the report’s recommendations, including the design of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for family reintegration. The three-pronged approach of enabling contact, facilitating attachment and ensuring follow-up is implemented with both children and families, making room for relationships and ultimately reintegration to develop organically.

The SOPs are part of recommendations that the report calls “principles of promising practice”. These include more targeted efforts to include the voice of children, involve the local community, take into account the experience of girls, and commit to a long-term vision. The report adds that more can be done through stronger coordination and evaluation mechanisms to involve government policy and action.

Applying the benchmarks of child rights should also be a priority in any existing or potential programme. This is particularly important for young offenders and those in residential care, groups that have traditionally been neglected among practitioners.

Many organisations are now looking to build on these findings, using it not just as a way to take stock but as a platform for greater collaboration. The report recommends a series of priorities for all stakeholders to put into practice. These include sharing experiences and ideas on a more regular basis; evaluating the reintegration process with greater depth; conducting more joint research similar to this study; agreeing on a set of common operating toolkits, while continuing to adapt to different contexts; strengthening national children protection systems and the commitment to do ‘no harm’.

The Interagency Group on Reintegration is currently headed by Family for Every Child. Its members include Retrak, UNICEF, the Better Care Network, War Child Holland, USAID, World Vision and Save the Children. You can download the PDF version of the report here.