2001 TNZ: Evaluating the Efficacy of Foster Parenting Practice in Refugee Camps at Kigoma and Kagera Regions
Author: Mchomvu, A.S.T.; Njimba, C.C.
A Training of Trainers workshop was conducted at Ngara to develop a training package to be used by social workers in training foster parents in different refugee camps. More important, that TOT workshop focused on equipping social workers with requisite skills to train foster parents, social workers and other actors who are directly dealing with foster children in refugee camps, in a bid to strengthen foster care services provision in the camps.
Purpose / Objective
The purpose of the mission was to evaluate/assess the impact of the Ngara Training workshop (TOT) held in December 2000, for Social Workers and Community Workers working in Refugee camps, on foster care and foster parenting provision.
Objectives of the Evaluation:
- To gauge the impact in the general behaviour and practice as regard foster parenting in the camps
- To measure how previous training workshops have been effective in enabling social workers in the camps to conduct their in-house capacity building within their respective camps
- To assess whether there is proper follow-up of foster care activities at household level in the camps
- Document the strength and weakness of foster parenting in the camps following previous training workshops
- Assess how the social workers have been effectively using the training package; and where they do not perform well may call for the need of revisiting the package.
Meetings; Focus Group Discussions; In-depth Interviews; Observations; Group Assignments; Drawings; Participatory Rapid Appraisal (PRA). Each method was used either alone and/or in combination with other(s) depending on the target population/respondents to be reached. A total of 60 foster children, 30 children living alone or with siblings, 98 foster parents and 60 social workers and community workers were involved in the evaluation drawn from 9 refugee camps.
Key Findings and Conclusions
A sum total of 468 foster parents were trained at various camps out of 493 registered foster parents. There is a big variation on foster care and foster parenting services provided from one camp to another. This is more pronounced among children living alone and siblings who, in most cases, do not seem to be ready to make use of the foster parenting program in spite of the numerous problems they succumb to e.g. stigmatization, lack of security and protection, and lack of material support. This situation calls for the launching of more efforts by social workers to sensitize and raise awareness on the children to go for foster parenting services.
Assessment revealed that these children are more frequently visited by social workers than any other client. It was noted in Karago that, in one month, some of the children living alone were visited more than five times; others were visited more than two times in three months, with a purpose of listening to them and convincing them to accept to be fostered; and requesting neighbors to take care of those children even just by visiting them.
There is remarkable awareness raising among all stakeholders who participate in the foster parenting programme in the camps e.g. rights and obligations of foster children; foster parents; community/block leaders; school teachers; social workers; community workers; at different levels.
Amicably, this is attested by:
- The decrease in complaints registered from foster children; foster parents to social workers in various camps.
- The increase in visits to offer "technical" advice by social workers, in the households of foster families, children living alone and schools.
- There is a close working relation that has been built by social workers/community workers with other stakeholders in addressing the problem collectively.
- Positive attitude of trust between a foster child and foster parents towards each other to the extent that the latter can accompany the foster child to a Red Cross Centre to write a red-cross message that can facilitate reunification.
- There is a notable decrease of incidences of child ill-treatment by foster parents.
- Significant decrease in the number of foster children who have changed foster parents between January 2001 and October 2001.
10% of fostered children were of the opinion that foster parenting care life in the camps was more of a torture than a relief. Majority of the children who are in this category came from the adolescent age group and, more particularly, girls and teen boys. In Mtabila, Muyovosi and Karago primary schools, it was noted that the drop out rate is very high among girls starting from class four and above. This 10% of fostered children were of the opinion that they do not see anything good in foster parenting life or any change recorded in 2001.
Learning from the two contradictory perspectives for the children, on the one hand arguing that there is an improvement and a small number holding that there is no improvement tends to suggest that some work on foster parenting training still needs to be continued. The one-year time period allocated since the foster parenting training workshop was conducted is a very short period to give a clear picture of the impact. However, it is a good yardstick to measure the trend upon which foster parenting life is heading. Therefore, a contrast of 90% children who said there is an improvement and 10% who completely denied the good side of foster parenting shows a good achievement following the Ngara Training.
Notwithstanding some inadequacies of the training manual for use in training various stakeholders in the camps, such as language barrier (the manual is in English language); size (the manual is fairly voluminous); technical (it is highly professional terminology); yet most social workers who administered training in the camps found it user-friendly, good and more competent when they adjusted and adopted it according to their specific camp situations. In almost all the training situations at camp level, most thematic areas in the manual were covered. However, it was noted by most of the respondents that the manual should be further improved to include themes such as: children's rights, foster parents' rights, economic empowerment strategies for foster parents, child psychology, counselling skills, communication including interviewing skills within refugee context, and foster care legislation (local and international).
Number of foster children to a home be regulated; preferably, a child should not be placed in a home where there are more than four (4) children so as to safeguard the welfare of the foster child.
Social workers be required to make systematic and more frequent visits (at least once a month) in foster homes and other institutions (schools, etc.) where these children are, to allow timely interventions in problem situations.
Social workers (national/refugees) be availed with the opportunities to acquire the ABCs of social work knowledge, skills and techniques to enable them to cope with and function well in the many roles they perform "on behalf of social work" in the camps.
Implementing agencies in the Refugee camps should work in close collaboration with UNICEF for the success of the foster parenting programme in the camps. UNHCR should take the lead in the coordinating role, leaving the technical-expertise functions to UNICEF.
Psychological services be made available in the Refugee camps for the benefit of foster children, children living alone, foster parents and other stakeholders in the foster parenting programme to deal with emotional problems accompanying situations of foster care and foster parenting.
Specific needs of girl-child be looked into e.g. during menstrual period so as to reduce stress, anxiety and feelings of despair, which may eventually compel her to drop out of school.
The training manual be translated into the respective local languages of the refugees; be written in brochure leaflets or booklets. The training at camp level needs to be more practical, reflecting the lifestyle of the camp situation.
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