Reuniting Children and Families - Faith's Story
Faith*, 6, Rwanda
In 2015, Burundian refugees fled to Rwanda and other countries in the region. Since then, Save the Children has been at the forefront of the humanitarian response protecting children from harm in Mahama Camp. In Kirehe District, Save the Children delivers child protection interventions and case management for at risk children including those involved in incidents of child neglect, physical abuse, sexual exploitation and child defilement. Most survivors of abuse need long-term solutions. Save the Children and its stakeholders meet in the best interest determination panel to discuss child abuse cases and response plans.
Faith*, 6, was reunited with her paternal family after a best interest determination meeting recommended family tracing and reunification.
In August 2019, Faith’s mother passed away, leaving the 6-year-old girl with her stepfather. Although they lived together as a family for 2 years prior to her mother’s death and were supported by Save the Children with case management, the stepfather could not provide Faith with appropriate care and neglected her. Consequently, Faith was placed in a foster family whom she stayed with until December 1st, 2020.
As this was unfolding, voluntary repatriation continued, and the stepfather decided that he wanted to return to Burundi with the child. However, because he mistreated Faith, Save the Children considered other options including discovering the identity of her biological father who was suspected to be Rwandan. Given the circumstances, Faith’s case was taken to the best interest determination panel on October 13th, 2020 which concluded that Save the Children should trace Faith’s father. Faith’s father was found to be living in Gatore Sector. Her birth father, Pascal, 61, was visited, and after being approached to care for his daughter, he readily accepted to welcome her into his blended family.
Pascal and his wife, Stephanie, 43, have four children between themselves, including Stephanie’s three children and a child from Pascal’s first marriage.
“I am happy that I found my husband’s daughter. I will make sure I raise her well. I can’t reject his only daughter while he has accepted my three children that I brought,” said Stephanie who embraced Faith as part of the family.
On December 2nd, 2020, Save the Children with a representative of the Ministry of Emergency Management supported the reunification of Faith and her father. “As you can see, Faith is looking neat and healthy. We expect you to keep it up,” imparted Janviere, a Save the Children case worker. “When her mother was still alive, her dad was not worried, but when he heard that her mother passed away, he was concerned. I realized it. He sometimes thought about how he could find his daughter. Now that you have brought her, I know he will be content,” shared Stephanie.
Save the Children supported Faith during the family tracing process. Now that she is reunited with her biological father, Faith was provided a mattress, clothes, fabric, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, bucket and washbasin to give her a fresh start. Upon arriving at her new home, Faith was warmly welcomed by her siblings who are keen on bonding with her. As Save the Children departed, Faith held hands with her brothers and sisters as they waved goodbye, smiling.
Background / Project information
Save the Children continues to collaborate with UNHCR and MINEMA to ensure reunification of children and their families in Burundi and Rwanda as part of the voluntary repatriation process. Since August when the first cohort of refugees repatriated, Save the Children has supported the reunification of 98 children with their families in Burundi. There are still children, like Faith, in need of finding their families. Save the Children does whatever it takes to reunify families and provide children with interim safe, supportive and appropriate home environments through foster care.