A major aspect of our work is family tracing, reunion and mediation.
Unaccompanied children that return from captivity are traditionally reunited with the maternal family. This is because the mother was abducted when she was young and was forcefully given to her husband. As a result, the relationship between the woman and man is not formal or recognized.
We family trace and reunite children with their maternal families whenever possible. Some of our children are currently residing with their paternal family because their maternal families were not found at the time of reunion. Our goal for the future is to family trace and reunite our children with both their maternal and paternal sides. Our hope in doing this, is to have all our children know both sides of their family and to have the families work together over the life of the child. Before doing this, we will consult with the family caring for the child and ensure they are in agreement with tracing the other side.
A further service we provide is family mediation. Family mediation is used in custody disputes over children and to resolve issues that arise between family members or between children and their families. When these issues arise, we sit down with the family in a venue they find comfortable and discuss the issues and possible methods of resolving them.
Oliver returned to Uganda as an Unaccompanied Minor in 2010. After spending 3 months at the GUSCO Reception Center, he was reunited with his paternal family. The paternal family was struggling to pay for Oliver’s education and so he was being referred to an orphanage. His mother returned from captivity in November 2011, but was taken directly home. If she had passed through a Reception Center, Oliver would have been brought to meet her and then he would have gone home with her. At the end of January, Oliver’s mother came to GUSCO asking for assistance in reuniting with her son. The problem was that she didn’t fit under the mandate of organizations operating in Gulu. We decided to help.
We traveled by motorbike to the home of the paternal family to notify them of the mother’s return. We provided transport and arranged for the paternal family to bring Oliver to meet his mother. The next day, Oliver was reunited with his mother and the two families met for mediation. The maternal family was extremely excited to be reunited and cried openly when they saw Oliver. The paternal family was overjoyed that Oliver’s mother had returned and were more than willing to let Oliver live with his mother. After mediation, both families came to an agreement and Oliver returned home with his mother. Both sides of the family are happy and will continue to work together in support of their child.