Congo Street Children: strengthening the parent-child bond

Congo Street Children: strengthening the parent-child bond

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Faced with the growing number of street children in DR Congo, Apprentis d’Auteuil and its partner, REPEIR, have set up a project to work with families to strengthen parent-child relationships. The aim is to give children a sense of security, in order to stop this phenomenon. Interview with Christophe Beau, Head of Family Support Programme at Apprentis d’Auteuil.

What is this project about?

It involves nine REIPER member structures in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire. While their skills in supporting children and their ability to network are undeniable, they lacked training to support families with whom they only made individual contact.  However, as we discovered at Apprentis d’Auteuil with the Maisons des familles, it is easier for them to trust other families who are going through the same thing. So, we first of all had to train these social workers to support families, in the form of practice exchange workshops.  

Why did you choose to work directly with the families of street children in DR Congo?

Christophe Beau: Member associations of REIPER (Network to support children at risk of family breakdown) our partner in DR Congo, provide support through their projects, homes and orWhy did you choose to work directly with the families of street children in DR Congo? phanages, for children who find themselves on the street for economic, family, social or cultural reasons. This phenomenon is far from being held in check, with new children arriving all the time.
These associations wondered, as did Apprentis d’Auteuil a few years earlier, about the possibility of working upstream with families. But their mediation efforts to ensure children are returned to the family home did not succeed. We therefore included a family support project in our programme, which is supported by the European Union (see box). The goal being to restore and strengthen parent-child relationships, so that children grow up in a secure environment conducive to a bright future.

Each organisation then asked some families to take part in interviews, talks and discussions on everyday education, moments of shared pleasure, awareness-raising on the rights and responsibility of children and parents. Then, very quickly the teams took the innovative approach of suggesting that these families meet up again, not at the organisations, but at home, by taking turns to invite one another. This allowed the organisations to support them as closely as possible to their actual situation and for the families to realise how similar their situations are. Today, they continue to see each other.

What first assessment do you make?

A real bond was created between families and organisations. A number of children and young people have been able to return to their families in a more sustainable way than before and to be re-schooled.  Families have worked on how to take care of their children despite the constraints they live in. The results speak for themselves!

What they say

The Professionals:
‘Before, we were guides, leading from the front. Today we provide support alongside the parents.’
‘We have such a close relationship with the families that we are now the first to be called.’

The Families:
‘I’d like to take a more long-term view, to be able to look to the future and have a better life for my children.’
‘I’m so happy to find my children, who are now in school.’
‘I welcomed the advice to stop beating my child, I feel better.’
‘When a child comes to tell me something, I listen.’

Apprentis d'Auteuil and REIPER have been partners since 2003, when the network was created. Many joint actions have been implemented since the partnership was set up. The ‘Promotion, Respect and Implementation of Children’s Rights in the Republic of Congo’ programme is co-funded by the European Union.

Apprentis d’Auteuil is a deeply committed catholic foundation, recognized as promoting the public interest in France and in more than 50 countries. Thanks to the expertise and experience of the foundation and their partners, Apprentis d’Auteuil have been able to supervise more than 23.000 children in France and almost 20.000 children and families worldwide. Its main goal is to help youth in difficulty by conducting educational projects and to boost their ability to participate in society as full-fledged citizens by promoting training and insertion programs worldwide. In addition to their actions towards helping vulnerable children, Apprentis d’Auteuil and their partners assist struggling parents in their family obligations, with coeducation as the guiding principle. The key purpose is to improve the management of children under their care and to enable them to grow as free and responsible adults. To make a donation for education – Please contact the foundation for underprivileged children Apprentis d’Auteuil.