All separated children and caretakers searching for family members should be registered. Where possible, immediate efforts should be made to quickly reunite children. They should be documented in order to begin tracing activities. If an adult says he or she is an immediate or extended family member of a child, the relationship should be verified before reunification is carried out. Children may have to stay in emergency care placements until family members are located and screened, however they should be reunited at the earliest opportunity.
Verification activities are vital for the protection of children. In some cases children may falsely claim separation in order to receive benefits, adults may identify the wrong child, or reunification may not be in the best interests of the child. In the chaos and distress in an emergency situation, verification becomes an essential step in safe family reunification. All verification and reunification activities must follow international standards and government policies, and require coordination among the agencies involved.
Reunification with family members should take into account the wider community context, to ensure the child will be welcomed and to prevent future separation. This may include family mediation, community sensitization, and/or particular services to help ensure acceptance and enable families to provide adequate care. It is also appropriate to involve community leaders and/or child protection groups to monitor a child’s safety and well-being after reunification. All placements with caretakers who are not immediate family members should involve careful screening and be monitored until satisfactory integration is assured. For children who are not able to be reunited with relatives, a longer term care plan will be needed.
The materials in this section include verification forms, country examples and good practice guidance for reunifying separated children with their families.