Determining Acceptable Customary Caregiving Arrangements with Congolese Refugees in Rwanda: Findings from Rapid Studies in Two Camps and A Toolkit for Moving Forward

This report presents both the process and the findings from a recent attempt to better understand customary caregiving arrangements for refugee children living in two camp-based populations in Rwanda. Commissioned by UNHCR, the study emerged from that organization’s recognition that although the globally accepted definitions of unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) do include provisions about customary caregivers, this concept has only rarely been operationalized in field settings. In Rwanda, UNHCR noted that the inclusion of children who are living with customary caregivers—in some cases the same customary caregivers with whom they were living before fleeing their homes while, in other cases, new customary care arrangements in which they have come to live in the camp settings in subsequent years—within their definitions of UASC had created a tremendous administrative burden on UNHCR staff and processes, taking precious time away from the agency’s ability to focus on more urgent child protection needs and vulnerabilities. This study, then, sought to explore if a more grounded definition of customary caregiving might, in fact, determine that many children classified as UASC are in fact living in customary caregiving arrangements that are socially and customarily acceptable for the populations living in these camps, care arrangements that do not inherently or implicitly create more vulnerability for the children living in them.
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