Reintegrating children into their families

NPH OneFamily is a programme designed to support children who have been in care with NPH so that they can return to living with members of their own family. We transition children into the programme if the family situation has improved significantly or the family otherwise couldn’t care for the children because of extreme poverty. NPH OneFamily consolidates our commitment to family-based care.

Guatemalan family in OneFamily programme
Keeping families together in the face of adversity

A safe family life for vulnerable children

For 70 years, NPH has been committed to providing care that is best suited to the needs of children. Our unwavering commitment is to ensure that children grow up in a loving, safe family environment.

For decades many of the vulnerable children who have come to us have had no one else to turn to. For them, life in one of our homes has been the appropriate step and often the best thing that ever happened to them.

When family reintegration is an option, NPH looks at the individual circumstances of each child, seeks to trace any relatives and checks whether they can take the child into their family.

The lack of a safe family environment for children remains the key concern of NPH. There are still children whose parents have died, but many more children suffer circumstances – poverty, violence, gang warfare, addiction – that make them vulnerable.

NPH works with the child welfare authorities to return children to family members while ensuring that the key benefits of care from NPH remain available to them.

In 2016 we named this process “NPH OneFamily” to make it more visible and to strengthen commitment to a defined set of high-quality standards.

Since then 190 children and adolescents have been reintegrated with their families and accompanied through the NPH OneFamily programme. Currently, 182 children and adolescents are enrolled in this programme, with 159 families being empowered and strengthened.

We are rolling the programme out in 6 countries: Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, Bolivia and Mexico.

Tracing family members, reuniting families

When the authorities place a child in the care of NPH, it is a priority to trace family members, contact them and foster visits when in the child’s best interest.

Governments in the region where NPH works are increasingly keen to enforce the child’s right to a family, as defined in the UN Convention on the rights of the Child, and they look to NPH partly on account of the high-levels of accreditation for our childcare programmes.

Consequently, NPH has now developed the NPH OneFamily programme to return children to live with members of their own family, when possible and in the best interest of the child. NPH OneFamily establishes a formal process for reuniting families, with clear criteria, case management and regular follow-up.

NPH social worker Nidia Rodas reflects on the NPH OneFamily programme

How NPH OneFamily works

The NPH OneFamily programme is succeeding because NPH goes to great lengths to ensure that the best interests of the child will continue to be served on returning to their family.

NPH achieves this by ensuring 3 key things:

  • a continuation of the services that NPH has provided to the child
  • a close collaborative relationship between NPH and the family
  • collaborating with the state authorities and building on their efforts to reunite families

As soon as a child comes to NPH, social workers endeavour to make contact with the original family. This has always been part of NPH’s concept of family.

Although NPH strives to return children to live with members of their own family, we recognise that for many children in our care this is not possible. Some will remain in our care until they are able to live independently.

Ensuring a safe family environment

If the child wants to re-join their family, NPH starts a thorough investigation ahead of a possible return. We need to know if a family member wishes to receive the child back into the family. Also, it’s essential to check on family circumstances that might rule out a return, e.g. criminality, addiction or violence. Sometimes the risks are not in the family but in the area where the family lives.

From the start NPH works with local child welfare authorities to support the child’s right to live with their family. NPH focuses closely on the service the child will need, including health, education and professional development, and works with the family to decide whether the child can return to their care.

A return to the original family is a major life change, and NPH gives the child in-depth emotional support on how to manage the experience. Parents also receive training from NPH on childcare, the needs of a family, and how to adjust to the return of their child.

After the child returns to their family

After the child returns to their family, NPH provides extensive follow-up focused on the child’s well being. In the first 6 months, there are monthly visits to the child in their home – more often if needed.

In the early stages, NPH provides financial support to cover nutrition, enrolment fees, tuition, uniforms, shoes, medical care and transportation costs.

After the first year, visits are quarterly. NPH also encourages return visits with the family to events at the NPH home.

In the longer term, NPH supports the child in keeping with their Life Plan, developed during their time in the NPH home, to ensure that the child’s life goals remain in focus.

Involvement of all the family

NPH support after reintegration extends to the rest of the family, especially other children in the same family. It’s essential that the strong focus of attention on the returning child is not detrimental to the needs and feelings of other family members.

The family must account for expenditure on items funded by NPH, and they receive ongoing training on developmental and behavioural issues.

The NPH family safety net

Sometimes, despite the best efforts of all concerned, the return to the original family or other family members doesn’t work out. There are many challenges:

  • the complexities of family life
  • the need on the part of all involved to comply with the programme in the child’s best interests
  • and the difficulties that poverty creates in the lives of so many children in Latin America.

Also, NPH staff report any instances of abuse or mistreatment to the child welfare authorities or to local law enforcement, as appropriate.

The child’s family members can approach the child welfare authorities to request that the child return to the NPH home. NPH social workers and psychologists will always assess the situation, in collaboration with child welfare authorities, to determine the outcome that is in the child’s best interests.

Preventing family break-ups in the first place

In 2022, NPH’s OneFamily programme expanded to include families in local communities. It no longer focuses solely on reintegrating children and young people with their family of origin after growing up in residential care with NPH, but also on families in vulnerable situations. The children in such families are at risk of being separated due to decisions by family judges or governmental children’s offices, mainly because they are not attending school.

Family at NPH meeting
A family taking part in the prevention programme

By counselling families about the value of education, strengthening the family dynamic, and covering the cost of school uniforms and supplies, NPH has enabled 41 children and young people to benefit from this expansion.

What success means

Being taken into the protective care of the NPH family has been the making of so many children. On the other hand, there is no questioning the tragedy of a child being separated from their family, so often for reasons beyond the control of their family.

Consequently the great achievement of the NPH OneFamily programme is that a child can return to their own family and yet remain part of the broader NPH family, with all the benefits that brings in the face of an often precarious existence.

The NPH OneFamily programme ensures that children returning to live with family members continue to benefit in the same way as children in our other programmes, including those in temporary residential care.
As in all NPH programmes, children enrolled in NPH OneFamily:

  • have a say in the course that their life takes. Extreme poverty need not prevent them from growing up with their own family
  • have their rights upheld through a programme of long-term care
  • can reach their unique potential in a safe, loving, family environment.

Additional information relating to family reunification

UN convention on the rights of the child

UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children

Guidelines on Family Reintegration

I’d like to support a child living in the community

Ever more of the children we support live in the community with family members.

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