|Kuleana Street Children Centre|
Kuleana is a transitional centre which provides residential care for children coming from the streets, providing them with the much needed time and care before they are ready to return to their community.
The social work team at the centre provide regular individual therapy sessions to every child who is under their care. The individual therapy sessions are so vital in ensuring that each child has the opportunity to be listened to, to deal with traumatic experiences, to talk about their family situations and to gradually start thinking about their future.
Kuleana strongly focuses on providing a safe and secure environment to each child while they reside at the centre. There is an extensive child protection policy present at the centre, which is highlighted to each child, staff member, volunteer and any visitor to the centre, in addition to each principle of the policy being closely followed. One of the main ways the policy is highlighted is through safety messages and rules concerning conduct being posted and painted around the centre, with these safety messages and rules being regularly reiterated within group and individual sessions and activities. It also includes recruitment procedures which are sensitive to child protection, as well as an on-site child protection officer. The centres positive discipline procedure is a very important part of the child protection policy. This procedure highlights the importance of showing children the consequences of their behaviour in order to teach them not to repeat bad behaviour, rather than giving them random punishments. In our experience random punishments, especially beatings as punishment, can have extremely negative effects on children and can push them to repeat or show worse behaviour. This approach highlights the importance of recognising and rewarding the positive behaviour of the children.
The social work team also provide regular group therapy and life skills sessions, which cover a broad range of topics. Within the sessions four different aspects are focused on; their heart, hands health and head. The focus of the topic ‘heart’ is to understand the concepts of relating and caring, through looking at communication, social skills, conflict resolution, empathy etc, while the ‘head’ aspect covers concepts of thinking and managing, which includes goal setting, planning, problem solving, decision making, critical thinking etc. The ‘health’ area highlights the importance of living and being, such as self-esteem, stress management, personal safety, managing feelings, self-discipline etc. and the ‘hands’ area focuses on the concepts of giving and working, which includes; teamwork, leadership, self-motivation etc.
The centre aims through their therapeutic approach to build a trusting relationship with each child, so that each child’s case manager can best assess when and which processes are necessary to place the child safely home. Social workers at the centre regularly carry out home visits to the children’s families. These visits include implementing and holding family therapy sessions and assessing the safety of the child, in addition to the financial needs of the reintegrated child and family. The reintegration of a child with their family is a long and significant process, which includes numerous monitoring and follow up visits once the child is reunified with their family.
The children who have been residing at the centre over a longer period of time attend a primary school beside the centre each day. They schooling is closely monitored by the social work team and they receive help and support with their homework. Children who reside at the centre on a shorter term basis who do not yet attend formal education are provided informal education and school preparation classes at the centre each day. These classes follow the curriculum of local schools and are focused on preparing the children on their enrolment into primary school once they are reintegrated back into their communities.
In addition to this, the centre has been officially recognised by the Mwanza head social welfare office, as the crisis centre for street children. It is therefore the only centre who can accept children after social welfare hours, if these children have any emergencies or incidents on the streets. We therefore have a significant responsibility to all children in Mwanza who have been exposed to any form of abuse or other emergencies.
We are a part of the Integrated Response for Street Children in Mwanza, which is a network of five of the main organisations working with street involved children in Mwanza. This network ensures that regular information and details are shared between the main actors concerning our work with street involved children. We discuss as a network the best and most effective strategies to address the problem of street children, challenges that we face and ways in which we can support each other, ensuring that efforts are not duplicated. The network closely works and collaborates with social welfare throughout all of our work.