Actively Engaging Children and Families

The active participation of children and families is vital to successful transition and invaluable to the process of accurately assessing specific needs and ensuring an individualized approach to case management. Children and families are the ones most directly impacted by the transition and are often best suited to identify their own strengths, needs, and desires. Child and family alike need to understand what the transition process is about, why it is important, and how they will be engaged and supported before, during, and after placement.

Strategies for child participation in the transition process will depend on each child’s age and developmental capacity. Even young children can participate and express their feelings or concerns through art or play. Older children can often express their own preferences and concerns through one-on-one conversations with a trusted individual, in small group discussions, or through writing. Youth can also speak to larger issues impacting their lives through participation in forums, advisory boards, and group decision making. In all cases, careful consideration should be given to protecting the child’s safety and rights to privacy and confidentiality.

Parents and family members are also full partners in the process, providing unique insight into any issues that may need to be addressed to ensure a smooth transition process. They can also help identify the services and support systems that exist or are needed to protect children and strengthen families in their communities. In addition to their individual interviews and assessments, parents and family members can be invited to participate in working groups, forums, support networks, and decision-making processes.

It’s important that case workers have (or have the capacity to develop) trusting relationships with the children and families, coupled with a solid understanding of the community context, cultural customs, and local language, so children and families can receive support based on deep understanding of their unique needs.

Guidelines on Children’s Reintegration Includes guidance on stages of reintegration (both emergency and nonemergency contexts), case management process, working with family, post-reunification support and monitoring, and reintegration within the wider continuum of child protection. (Family for Every Child)

Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children: A Tool for Reviewing the United Nations Framework with Children Explains the key points in the Guidelines and suggests activities to help think about the principles of alternative care and what these mean for children and families in different situations. Includes activities for children to produce “Key messages” they would like to share with adults. (SOS Children’s Villages International)

Program P A Manual for Engaging Men in Fatherhood, Caregiving, Maternal and Child Health Provides tools and resources for engaging fathers in active parenting, particularly during pregnancy and early childhood, and contains three sections: Guide for Health Professionals on Engaging Fathers, Group Education for Fathers, and Mobilizing the Community. The MenCare.org has a range of resources on fatherhood (Promundo, CulturaSalud, and REDMAS)