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Importance of Counseling in Family Reintegration

Nepal’s Children’s Act 2075 defines anyone under 18 as a child. By this definition, about 40 percent of total population of Nepal are considered as Children. There are 489 registered Child Care Homes (CCH) in Nepal (State of Children Report, 2020) and over 80% of children living in such institutions have at least one living parent (Save the Children, 2009). Despite of the fact that children have at least one living parents, children are being displaced due to various socio-economic reasons like poverty, better education, separation of parents and many other compulsions.

In the name of education, children are being displaced and admitted to children’s homes. When a child is being displaced and rescued from children’s homes/orphanages, he/she may carry all the beautiful and bitter memories along with them. Some of these children acquire attachment and bonding with their friends while other may experience physical, sexual, and mental abuses. Unknown with the fact that psychological growth of a child who lives in institutional care is slower than a child who lives in a family and other lifelong consequence, children who are separated from their families may face adjustment problem, attachment disorder, Insecurity, lack of confidence, low self-esteem later in their personal life. The feeling of being unsafe and mistrust that may also be chronic will lead to various other psychological disorders.

Counseling is a must for the young children, teens and adolescents that have been rescued from CCHs and those who have been reunified to family with psycho-social complications. Counseling helps them elevate and heal from the past traumas. Counseling sessions can be of great help for a child that may have experienced different psychological and social issue or the trauma that they had to face, it helps them by guiding and helping to process and understand these complex issues with a new perspective. When child’s social issues, emotional issues and psychological distress are left untreated, it can negatively impact his/her educational aspirations and developmental milestones. Ultimately, this form of counseling aims to help children work through their emotions so they can live normal healthy lives without the lasting effects of fear, confusion, anxiety, or trauma.

Children who have been rescued and brought to transit home are first given PFA (Psychological First Aid) to comfort them, to provide emotional and physical support they need. PFA also helps child to calm and orient emotionally, to reduce distress, identify immediate needs and concerns and to help establish brief or ongoing contacts with primary support persons. The reunified children who face adjustment problem, loneliness, and feeling of inferiority and detachment from family members are closely monitored and given psychosocial counseling to enhance their wellbeing and coping skill.

Children who are rescued and reintegrated to the families are treated very sensitively. The immediate psychological need for children who are diagnosed with PTSD due to trauma, abuse, a dysfunctional or stressful environment are the first priorities for the team and team helps the child navigate such uncomfortable, scary, anxiety-provoking, and challenging times with less stress and turmoil. The immediate psychological support has helped a lot for newly rescued children by providing them recreation therapies that decreases the feeling of loneliness, social isolation, anger, and anxiety, increases the feeling of worthiness, confidence, and distracts them from current stressful environment. The therapy helps build link with available source of support, improves child’s wellbeing, behavior, and perception. This can slowly help them adjust in new environment. The recreation therapy such as dance, art, crafts, and sports fill the gap between the child and the new environment. The children experience calm and relaxation after these activities.

Children are innocent, curious, they learn new things and have ability to adapt to new environment if proper guidance and counseling to the child and the family are provided on timely manner. By working collaboratively with them, counseling helps to identify their problem, and aids a child to accomplish a better mental health, wellness, education and help focus on a career goal.

‘Ansu is 15 now. During her early days of reintegration, she was inattentive, showing temper tantrums and behavioral issues. It happened due to sudden changes in the living environment. After several sessions on counseling, she has gained insight and has realized the love and care of her family towards her. She respects her family and has also improved her social relations with her siblings in the family.’

 – Counselor Bhutila Sherpa