Benin: Because there’s no place like home
In Benin , children living on the streets without family or other support often become the victims of abuse. To help them, some families are ready to take them in and look after them whilst their own families are being sought. The project includes many parties and partners such as the Ministry of the Family and the UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund). In fact, when abuse is ascertained in a community, the child is sent to the OCPM (Central Office for the Protection of Minors) before being taken to a shelter. The Tdh teams are there to listen attentively to the child, to talk to him about his history and his wishes, and start looking for a suitable family to take care of him whilst he is waiting to go back to his own family again.
The host families are not chosen by chance. There are, in fact, 28 homes in Cotonou that have been evaluated, selected, accredited and made aware of the difficulties mistreated and exploited children may have. Placing a youngster in this family or that depends on his profile, as well as the availability of the families in question. A minimum of two annual meetings are organized with the host families so as to exchange views on their various experiences, and also to instruct them again on the rights of the child.
Once the youngster is placed in a host family, the Tdh teams start looking for his biological family, based on the information he has given them. In 80% of the cases, relatives can be found quickly and the child can go back to his own people. For the other 20%, in some cases additional searches have to be made, in other cases the teams have to note that the child would run a risk if he returned home; then other options have to be envisaged. Above and beyond helping a youngster to find his family again, Tdh also tries to find an appropriate solution for his future: going back to school, a new school or an apprenticeship.
By the end of 2013, Tdh hopes to have come to the aid of some 1,000 youngsters. Hitherto, all the children arriving at the OCPM who corresponded to the profile established by Tdh could be cared for. Convinced that nothing can replace a family nest, Tdh pledges that each and every child should benefit from a secure environment, wellbeing and protection.
More on Terre des hommes results in Benin.