Patrick is a little boy of about 6. For the last two years we have tried very hard and failed to find a family for him. Firstly we tried to trace his own family, then to find a foster family. For now he is staying at the centre. He was named Patrick because he was brought to the centre by one of our educators whose Christian name is Patrick. Having been abandoned at the main market of Selembao the town’s social services entrusted him to us. They could not trace the child’s family because he did not speak.
The educators went there, first by themselves and then with the boy, to make enquiries and to search for his family, but this yielded nothing. The few words spoken by the child were not precise enough. We brought the boy to national TV and other TV networks (a method we use regularly and which usually works well) but without success. In December 2014 we took advantage of the 10th anniversary of the centre to present him to several media representatives, but without any results so far.
We placed him with a former religious sister who liked him at first. However the boy had to be taken from her because he was not thriving. That foster family did not suit him. Despite the accompaniment of educators the boy was misunderstood by the person in charge of the household. He was even accused of being possessed by evil spirits that made him wake up and talk in the middle of the night, and which urged him to relieve himself in the house and in clothes.
Now that he is back in the centre he has regained the strength and good cheer he once had. He is very demanding of affection and of the adults’ attention and he is beginning to talk, even if he has trouble expressing himself, though he is good at communicating his needs and his feelings. The offices of permanent staff are his favourite places to play, which is both a nuisance and a call for help.
The most difficult moments for him are when he sees one of the children leave the centre to be reunited with his family or to go with a foster family. Then he cries and says: “Na kende palais!” which means: “Me go home!”
To remind readers, the NYB centre is meant for boys and young men, not girls, during the day, though it can temporarily put handicapped young people, newly-arrived children under 10, young people treated for addiction, and those prior to reunification up.
One category of children staying at the centre gives us great concern: children who are lost and handicapped. This is because up to now NYB is unable to accompany them properly: the staff are not yet trained for this, the infrastructure is not adapted, and above all the foster families that normally take the children would not accept them in that state. The families prefer children who can become autonomous as quickly as possible, better still be able to shoulder a share of helping the family.
This way of doing things is not bad but unfortunately it amounts to a passive way of selecting and discriminating. The city of Kinshasa currently has no special structure that could accommodate this category of children. So our team needs to engage in careful consideration to discern the right approach, the right conduct, the right partners and partnerships, in order that a start can be made to tackle this new and difficult challenge: caring for handicapped young children at the centre in particular, but also all other people that live with a handicap.