Unaccompanied children in family homes and project Access
Mary Douglas and Tilda Sonnesson, project managers of project Access.
Vulnerable, forgotten and important. So are Unaccompanied children who live in family homes described by the organization Save the Children.The past two years, Save the Children is trying to learn more about the group through a project called Access.
Every year, children and adolescents without accompanying arrive to Sweden to apply for asylum. Commonly these children are placed in so-called HVB homes or in different forms of family homes. One type of family home is network homes (nätverkshem) where the children live with relatives or anyone else in their network, such as a relative, a neighbor, or a friend. The children placed in network homes are a relatively new group in Sweden and the knowledge of them is low. Therefore Save the Children Malmö have devoted nearly two years to run the project Access together with Malmö City with the aim to create a larger and clearer view of these children's situation and needs.
- In terms of Access, we work only with the children who live in so-called network homes. We can definitely see the lack of systems, methods and guidelines tailored for the unaccompanied children who arrives to Sweden to live with a relative. These children have completely different needs than our systems are designed for, says Mary Douglas, project manager of the Access and Save the Children.
Pressed into the systems that does not fit
According to the National Board of Health and Welfare, there are advantages and disadvantages placing unaccompanied children with relatives or someone else in their network. For example, it can be good for the children to speak the same language as the family they are staying with, and the relatives can facilitate contact with the biological family, if it exists. The disadvantage may be scarce financial resources, overcrowding and unemployment. It can also be about that the relatives themselves are involved in the asylum process with the uncertainty that it might mean. In addition, there is a risk that the children refrains from telling if they are mistreated because they want to show gratitude to the person they are living with. Save the Children believes that children in network homes are exposed to multiple risk factors and that they often are at risk of their needs and rights are overlooked.
- Above all, this is a forgotten group who basically never is included when it comes to improvement and efforts. Or Research, said project manager Mary Douglas.
"We need the voices of the children"
According to Save the Children, there are many operators who want to reach out to children and improve the situation for them. The problem is that they do not know how. Mary Douglas argues that the difficulties to reach out with relief efforts depends on that the children are excluded from influence and that their voices are seldom heard.
- How can the community know what's best for these children when we cannot reach them and include them? We need more knowledge and research to do this correctly. We need the voices of the children. More perspectives who can come together in whats best for these children, says Mary Douglas.