Third Response: Reunification
For children who have been separated from their families, reunification with parents or with extended family is usually the best outcome to aim for. The Gatekeeping process regards reunification as its first aim. Evidence demonstrates that children fare best with their families and communities.
Reunification involves fixing the problems that caused the separation or that put the child at risk. Poverty should never be the only reason to keep a child from his or her home.
For children at risk of abuse, or suffering abuse, emphasis should not be paced on removing a child from the danger, rather focus should be on removing the danger from the child's environment. Regular monitoring of the child's safety and well-being continues after reunification.
Returning children who have been separated to their family often requires intensive, family-centred services to support a safe and stable family environment for the child. Services should be tailored to each family's circumstances and must address the issues that brought the child into the alternative care system.
Some of the steps and complex issues that reunification involves.
- Engaging parents in reunification
- Assessing readiness for reunification, family and child
- Reunification with relatives
- Addressing issues related to trafficking or abuse
- Reunification with parents with substance abuse issues
- Reunification with parents affected by behavioural or physical health issues
- Reunification with parents who are incarcerated
- Reunification in families affected by domestic violence
- Preventing re-entry to alternative care
- Reinstatement of parental rights
- Monitoring and evaluation
The Gatekeeping process will be faced with some cases where reunification with the child's birth family is not viable. In Uganda, many thousands of children are supported and thriving in kinship care. A foster care network is being created. Domestic adoption is also being developed. The 'either-or' argument, to reunite or build orphanages is not a valid response and not in the best interest of the child.
Similarly, the 'either-or' for short-cuts in the international adoption process are not valid. To argue that a child being in an orphanage justifies ignoring the Children Act and jumping straight to international adoption, ignores both the law of the land as it is intended and ignores the continuum of care process as detailed in the Framework.
Learning from Nepal
Many children in Nepal have experienced displacement from their homes into orphanages. Often, poor rural families are persuaded to hand over their children because of the promise of education, health care and a better life for the child. The following report explains the situation in Nepal and provides guidelines about reconnecting and reunifying children with their families.Reintegration Guidelines for Trafficked and Displaced Children Living in Institutions (Nepal)