Children’s rights activists gathered, this week, at consultative meeting in Kigali to discuss the relocation process of 459 children from SOS Children’s Village sites in the country to their biological families.
Claudette Nyinawaga, the SOS Children’s Villages country director, said there are concerns of behavioural and emotional difficulties such as fear, anxiety, stress, depression, low self-esteem as well as trauma that might be involved in the process of relocating children to their original families.
Although she said there is no timeframe for reunification of children it will depend on the time taken in assessing their needs and tracing their family.
Elizabeth Niyongana, a psychologist at National Commission for Children, Tubarere Mumuryango Programme, said it’s necessary to provide psychosocial support in the re-integration of children because of their kin’s unfamiliarity and new life.
“We heard testimonies of children traumatised after learning of plans to take them back to their families because of past experiences,” she said.
Mona Aika, child protection specialist at UNICEF Rwanda, said community psychosocial support is also needed to prepare family members to see that necessary recovery, rehabilitation and resilience are done efficiently.
She said children’s wellbeing, physical and external social needs are critical, adding that medical history, educational performance of children must be retraced to ensure that important details are not overlooked in responding to those with special needs.
But Senator Celestin Sebuhoro, a psychologist, believes that keeping children in institutions gives them stability, either socially or legally.
“Taking children back brings paternity formalities and guardianship concerns, which upsets them psychologically although connecting them to their origin and face-to-face conversation with their kin would benefit them more in the long-run,” Sebuhoro said.
SOS Children’s Villages Rwanda is an affiliate of SOS Children’s Villages International, a federation of national associations working across the world to ensure that every child grows up with love, security and respect.
It provides children with basic needs and psychological counselling, supports the National Children’s Commission to trace the children’s origin, addresses underlying causes which pushed them to the street, and reintegrates them into their biological families.
It also places children in foster families as a last resort in line with the National Child Care Reform Strategy.