The case of a child In street situation [case discussion in Albanian]

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Endri[1] is 15 years old boy from a family with serious financial and psychosocial problems. The boy started to work when he was 9 years old, engaging primarily in recycling plastic waste. At the age of 12 he began to leave the house not only during the day but also at night. He admits that within the past 3 years, he may have slept outside the house one third of the time.

In January 2016, an intervention team found Endri in a difficult physical and psychological state, sleeping near waste container. This prompted the municipal Child Protection Unit to initiate the case management. However, ever since Endri has been away from home in two other occasions. When asked about the reasons that make him leave home, he responds that he feels good because he is able to interact with many friends of his age or older in the area where he spends time. He has coffee with them, feels respected and can access Internet for free in the places where he spends time.

Currently, Endri collects plastic materials from local bars and sells them. He uses the money  “to buy cigarettes, eat and play billiard”. He reports that when he does not go back home, he sleeps outside if the weather conditions are good. He has also been sleeping in the house of peers he collects cans with. On other occasions, Endri has been staying in a college’ dormitory, which is in the area where he spends time. Endri reports that the college students have offered him shelter out of compassion. However, this situation poses many risks for the boy.

Endri has been out of school for a year, but now is back again, although he doesn’t follow school regularly.

Endri's Family 

Endri’ family, composed of five members, lives in a one-room apartment lives in a building where there is no electricity for nearly a year due to a collective punishment from the state electrical agency on the entire building. The boy’s father also works in recycling, but abuses heavily with alcohol on which spends most of his revenues. The father is constantly under the effect of alcohol and his relation with the son is unstable. The family reports that the father is not violent when under the influence of alcohol, but he is completely unable deal with family issues. Meanwhile, the boy seem to have a good relation with his mother, despite her feeling powerless to change the family situation. She has been referred to relevant authorities to help her with employment opportunities.

The family was offered help with the house rent for a period of time, given the inadequate environment they live in, but they did not accept it out of fear of losing the room they have permanently. Currently, the family is enrolled in the cash benefit system and it is also registered in the social housing system.

 

Issues raised during the discussion and lessons learned:

The presenter informed that this case had been coordinated by the Child Protection Unit (CPU) of the area where the family lives, in cooperation with the organization Different and Equal and the National Association for Life Education (SHKEJ). A multidisciplinary team composed of several state institutions has also met to manage the case.

After the initial intervention, the situation improved slightly as the child’s absence from home at night has been less frequent. However, Endri still runs the risk of leaving home due to difficult family’s conditions, including lack of electricity and his father’s abuse with alcohol. Furthermore, the State agencies’ involvement on this case has ceased because the employee CPUs that was directly dealing with the case has been suspended from the duty for several months without replacement. Currently, only non-governmental organizations are involved in management of this case.

Under these circumstances, the representative of Different and Equal asked the expert and other participants to suggest interventions related both to the child’ safety, as well as to the wellbeing of his family.

Some of the main suggestions emerging from the discussions are:

  • The organization of another meeting of the multidisciplinary team and development of an intervention plan, to continue the case management. Representatives of various institutions must take measures in accordance with their respective mandate to address the challenges of the child and his family. The responsibility for managing such a complex case cannot be attributed only to non-governmental organizations, but should be carried out by a team in which both state and non-state stakeholders play their respective roles.
  • The need for a deeper and thorough assessment of the health conditions of the boy, followed by appropriate medical and psychological interventions. (As the presenter informed, an initial medical assessment that has been performed, including on the child’s mental health, did not seem to have been very comprehensive.) Being in a street situation for a long period of time may have exposed the boy to serious risks with severe physical and mental consequences.
  • Providing ongoing counselling to the child. Besides the typical psychological counseling by professional, such as the school phycologist, the boy needs continuous counselling and couching from someone, possibly an adult, he respects and feels comfortable to talk to. The child’s enrollment in a summer camp would also be a good opportunity for him to create social connections with peers and adults outside the circle where he usually spends time.
  • Detailed assessment of the situation of the entire family including his father, mother and two sisters. This is important to plan accordingly the intervention measures and in particular to prevent a similar situation (street situation) for Endri’s sisters.
  • A special importance should be given to the evaluation of the mother’s emotional and psychological state as she bears the main responsibility for bringing up the children, considering her husband’s problems with alcohol. The expert suggested that a psychologist or social worker from the case management team should establish contacts with the mother. It would be good if a female colleague were involved with her in order to make her more comfortable sharing her feelings and needs. Also, adequate resources should be made available to the mother and family to help in this situation.
  • At the same time, the father must be supported in his efforts to treat alcohol addiction by someone who has a positive influence on him. Representatives of child protection and social services as well as members of the extended family if available should be included to help the father.
  • State agencies’ involvement is essential to solving problems related to housing and the lack of electricity, as these are some of the factors that influence Endri’s to be away form home.
  • Finally, other non-governmental organizations should get involved and contribute with financial and human resources to support the family, depending on the needs identified by the multidisciplinary team.

 

 

 

 

[1] The name of the child was changed

Expert online: 
Language(s) of materials: 
Albanian
Date and time for case discussion: 
26 May 2016 - 11:00am
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