AVSI Foundation is pleased to present the end of project report for the Family Resilience (FARE) project, implemented in Uganda from November 2015 to June 2018 by AVSI and partners with funding and technical support provided by FHI 360 through the USAID-funded Accelerated Strategies for Practical Innovation and Research in Economic Strengthening (ASPIRES) Family Care subproject. ASPIRES Family Care sought to develop evidence and programming guidance for matching contextually appropriate economic interventions with specifically targeted households to reintegrate separated children into families and prevent unnecessary separation of children from their families. As a sub-project of ASPIRES, FARE provided a practical context for learning by AVSI Foundation and partners together with FHI 360. This report describes the project and summarizes achievements, challenges, and learning.
The goal of FARE was reduced unnecessary family-child separation in Uganda, with the broad development objective that targeted families would be less vulnerable and more resilient to shocks that can lead to family-child separation. FARE was implemented in Kampala and Wakiso Districts, which host large proportions of vulnerable children including those living on the streets. The project aimed to reach 650 households, including 350 families deemed to be at high risk of child–family separation (At-risk or Prevention families) and 300 children already living outside of family care and the families to which they were returning (Reintegration).
FARE achieved its full enrolment target for the Prevention (At-risk) families: 350 families were identified, assessed, and enrolled in nine parishes thought to be hot spots for family-child separation. FARE reached 94% of its Reintegration target: 281 children were prepared and reunified with their families. However, FARE was not able to enrol all of these children and families in the project for a variety of reasons including the short project duration, high levels of mobility of identified project participants outside the project target area, and lack of interest on the part of some reunified families to participate fully. Other children ran away shortly after being reunified, rendering the household enrolment process incomplete for full participation in the project. Of the 281 children reunified with their families, only 268 children from 255 households decided to participate fully in the community and household level activities offered by the project after reunification, subsequent to full consent by the caregiver and the index child. Overall, FARE worked with 605 (350 prevention and 255 reintegration) families; 93% of enrolment target reached.
In order to achieve the project goal, FARE aimed to achieve three intermediate results:
1. Quality, appropriate case management helps reintegrating children and families and families at high risk of separation identify needs and access support and services;
2. Targeted families are less vulnerable and more resilient to shocks that can lead to family-child separation;
3. Children are nurtured and protected in targeted families and communities.
FARE offered a menu of economic strengthening and family strengthening activities in which Prevention and Reintegration families could choose to participate, guided by a specific Household Development Plan (HDP) that took into account the uniqueness of each family’s needs and resources and the accessibility of these activities to families. Economic strengthening activities included cash transfer, accompanied by training in microenterprise selection, planning and management (SPM), for a small number of the most economically vulnerable families; village saving and loan associations (VSLA), with SPM training for some groups; apprenticeships for youth and, later in the project, training on “community skills”. Family strengthening activities included home visiting and counselling by project social workers for all families (ideally on a monthly basis for reintegrating families and on a quarterly basis for at-risk families), training on parenting skills for caregivers, training on life skills and interactive dialogues for adolescents, community dialogues on topics of interest, and recreational activities.
Regular assessment of each household was carried out by project staff on an eight-month frequency, using monitoring tools such as the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development’s Household Vulnerability Assessment Tool (HVAT), which covers six domains prioritized by Uganda’s National Strategic Plan of Interventions for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC). A caregiver and index child3 from each household were also regularly assessed, generally on the same interval, using the child and caregiver status integration tools to ascertain progress in domains thought by practitioners and suggested in the literature to be associated with stability and retention of children in family care.
The project timeline was 33 months, with direct activities lasting 30 months. FARE reunified separated children and their families between January 2016 and September 2017. Most economic strengthening and family strengthening activities with reintegrating and at-risk families took place between September 2016 and March 2018.
Summary of performance on selected indicators:
- 93% (167 of 180) of the children reunified between January 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017 (and therefore potentially able to have at least 12 months of exposure to FARE post-reunification) remained in family care for a year against the project target of 95%.
95% of children in prevention families remained in family care throughout the life of the project against the project target of 100%.
124% loans to savings ratio recorded in VSLA groups against the project target of 150%.
58% of the direct participants increased their household income by 30% against the project target of 50%.
84% improvement in parent–child relations among reintegration caregivers and 94% improvement among prevention caregivers and children against the project target of 60%.
43% of the youth who were trained through apprenticeships were employed against the targeted 60%.
Summary of Conclusions
The FARE project has demonstrated that preventative resilience-building effort at the household level is a good approach, with family strengthening and economic strengthening interventions both of great relevance. Support for families where separation has already occurred is much more difficult, the household needs are likely to be greater and perceptions of stigma are real. It is too early to tell whether participating households are in fact more resilient to shocks as they may arise in the future. The Theory of Change which suggests that economic assets, stronger family relationships, and effective social networks through peer groups such as VSLA should build resilience capacities is based on growing evidence and makes sense in this case. Yet, the FARE project recognizes that the challenges facing the targeted communities are great and the context is ever changing. The FARE project benefitted from partnership with implementing partners (IP) which were already deeply committed to the issues of child-family separation, though other partnerships may have enhanced outcomes.
The FARE project had important achievements as well as challenges that limited achievement on some desired outcomes. These challenges are themselves important contributions to the learning agenda around child-family separation and reintegration which should be taken into consideration in future program design.