WHAT IS THE FIRST LINE RESPONSE TO FAMILIES IN CRISIS?
The first line response to a family which, like Sitha's, is identified to be in imminent risk of breakdown should be family preservation services that aim to assist them to overcome the crisis and stay together.
Family preservation services are short-term, intensive support services for families in crisis who are at risk of imminent breakdown. The aim of family preservation is to de-escalate the crisis, find solutions to underlying problems and connect the family with on-going family strengthening services to prevent family breakdown.
Family strengthening seeks to support families to ensure that they are able to meet the needs of their children within their community. These programs may assist families with access to schooling, medical care and provide services for children with special needs. Family strengthening may also seek to ensure that where necessary families have adequate income, food security and access to childcare. Family strengthening seeks to prevent crises from developing that could result in family breakdown and the placement of children into residential care.
In Sitha's case, when she decided not to return to the orphanage with her children, she had no solution to the poverty she was facing. An ACCIR partner organisation called Children in Families soon heard about her situation and was able to assist her with family preservation and on-going family strengthening services. A social worker was assigned to her family and together they identified what Sitha needed to be able to provide for her children and keep her family together. ACCIR provided funds for a well to be dug in Sitha's home, which meant she could raise animals and plant vegetables. CIF then assisted her to start a small pig farm to generate an income, helped her children get access to the local school, and helped Sitha access antiretroviral medication so she could stay healthy. This was all it took to keep Sitha and her children together. It cost significantly less than providing care in an orphanage and meant that her children were able to avoid the trauma of separation and the detrimental effects of institutionalisation.