How to keep them together: A reunification story

IMG_4507Over one year ago we met a grandfather who was caring for his grandchildren aged 2 and 4.  When we met the children they didn’t speak much, their stomachs were large due to malnutrition and their hair brittle.  Today, one year later, the children have life in their eyes.  Here’s the story.

Last year, the grandfather we met had no money, food or support.  He worked day labor in the fields with the 2-year-old girl on his back and the 4-year-old boy wielding a shovel.  When we met, he explained that he could die tomorrow and had no idea what would happen to these children.  So after some hard decisions, we brought the children to the Indian government authorities who admitted them into a children’s home here in Udaipur.  Let us tell you, pulling screaming children from their grandfather and admitting them into an institution was one of the toughest things we’ve ever done, but we needed to keep them alive.  In the field of social work, sometimes we have to endure moments of temporary sadness to focus on the bigger picture and achieve greater goals.  Sadly, the institution was the only option since there is no formalized foster care mechanism in Rajasthan.  Hopefully you’re thinking what we were thinking…. there has to be an alternative way.  And here is when Foster Care India came into action, to collaborate with others to pave a better solution.

While the children were trying to adapt to the institutional setting, their grandfather made significant efforts to offer them a better quality life.  He garnered support from the governing village bodies, Foster Care India and another non-governmental organization. In addition, he now has help from his second daughter-in-law at home.  In child protection, the knowledge that you are not alone in this world as a care taker is often the deciding factor.  And this led to the fact that a week ago, the grandfather approached with his head held high, “I am ready to have my grandchildren back.”

We immediately got to work on-ground to provide essential support to the grandfather.  We assessed the situation and knew that we needed to be steady and purposeful to make sure the children were not returned to him just to be removed again. We understand that transition is one of the most painful and life-changing experiences for a child.

Yesterday, on a hot day in the middle of May, we reunited the grandfather with his grandchildren after all necessary formalities. The children cried to leave their friends but smiled to hug their grandfather.  To us, the rights of the child are at the center of everything we do.  So we explained the 5-year old boy what was going on, sat with him along with his grandfather and asked what he wanted.  His thought clarity was quite impressive – he wanted to go to school and be at home.  “Okay then”, we thought, “let’s see how we can make that happen in a way that is holistically best for everyone.” Focusing on the twin motives of family reintegration and family strengthening, we shall now work with the grandfather to enroll the children in school and to avail of government schemes for him to have adequate resources.

Let’s be honest here, children are human beings and there is no static measurement of their needs and wants. It is a dynamic journey to find solutions to their problems; every step may change as varied conditions evolve. However, Foster Care India commits to a solution-oriented approach and to efficiently address the needs as they arise.  This is tough work and at the end of the day, we are affecting people’s lives. The responsibility is enormous and must be taken in full knowledge of the potential consequences.

We will continue to move forward, grow and learn as we work to help the Indian government get children out of institutions and into home based settings.  We work not for the next 5 years but for the next 5 generations.

Thank you for your continued support of our work.

To read our earlier blog when we first met the grandfather, click here