Published: August 16th 2008August 16th 2008
A week after arrival, we met the ICMC BID Expert, an American (from Michigan-East Lansing area) named Terry. Unfortunately, within 3 weeks of our arrival his “tour of duty” was ending. As we figured out what we were doing and got truly acquainted with the ways of the Somali refugees in Kebribeyah, we started creating a large binder of cases that needed BIDS. So the BIDS began to pile up and Terry got through a few, but then it was time for him to return home. I had volunteered to learn about BIDS and asked to observe his work. A few other women in the group also requested the same training. Unfortunately, time got away from everyone so there was no hands-on training but we did have a wonderful overview and power point on the entire process before he departed.
We all realized that if we did not have someone to do BIDS we would not be able to process a large percentage of the refugee population for resettlement so Kavita and I volunteered our services. Addis decided since I have a social work degree, I was the correct candidate. A BID stands for the Best Interest Determination for Children.
Kid in the camp
proudly displaying his homemade car toy
The work is important as it is clearly about assess the best placement for children. The Somali culture has an extended family concept based on clan systems so most of the children in the camp have caregivers. However, it is important to make sure the children are being cared for adequately. The work is important and I felt lucky to be given the opportunity to work in the field.
The work depends a lot on one's interpreter’s ability to set the children interviewed at ease. Generally a BID is an assessment of the child’s living situation, parental whereabouts, and caretaking arrangements, and involves a long discussion with the caretakers and the child (usually an hour depending on the age of the child). Luckily, this decision was made before Terry left so there was time to have a conference about the work and to get hints on interviewing children.
I started this past Monday (July 21st). So, I like to think of myself as a friendly investigator with the option of a surprise home visit…not too different than CPS. So my first day was a bit tense but by the second day I felt much more confident when I
outside the water distribution center in camp- UNHCR blue sign in background
encountered the following situation:
Mother sits down and explains the family composition. All the members of her family are her biological children except one, male, 5 -year old child who is her sister’s child. Her sister has died and no one knows where his father is…he has lived with her since he was small and calls her mother. Other people in the family confirm this story. There are some discrepancies in names and other family composition type things, which cause me to be suspicious. So, we call the child, Yusuf (not his real name), into the room. As he is 5 years old, my interpreter ZamZam sits right next to him and speaks quietly to him. She is a beautiful, petite, devout Muslim Somali woman. She has a soft voice and kind eyes and is the eldest sibling her large family so she likes children and is used to talking to them.
The child is instantly calmed not that he looked that scared. I give him some paper and ask him to draw as I type some things up on the computer. I have this technique now where I act like I am not really paying attention
Playing on Friday
visitng the kids and being followed!
to their conversation while asking my interpreter questions to ask the child. This way the younger children, usually the most nervous, think they are just talking with ZamZam. So we begin by asking his age.
What are you drawing?
“ A girl”
Very nice and do you go to school?
What grade are you in?
“Grade 2” (next year as it is summer now)
Where do you go to school?
Who do you live with in Jijiga?
“My mom and dad, but my dad isn’t there right now.”
Where is he?
“I don’t know”
Who are the people outside?
At this point, my interpreter prompts me to ask him his name. Since I am smart I do exactly as she instructs,
What is your name?
“I don’t know”. At this point, ZamZam smiles and tells me in English that when she went outside and called for Yusuf, he looked around and called for Yusuf too until someone prompted him and then he pointed to himself.
Why are you in Kebribeyah?
Visiting my aunt
Where does your aunt live?
So why are you in Kebribeyah?
“I don’t know sometimes she lives here”
Who are the people with her?
Do you know their names?
“Sure,” and he proceeds to give me completely different names then the ones listed on the paper in front of me.
Do you play football?
“Yes, I am good at football. I play with friends in Jijiga. I am fast!”
Neat! That is awesome. I wish we had a ball so you could show me how fast you are. You are a very smart boy, as I hand him a loliipop. Thanks for answering all my questions. You can go back to your aunt now.
Obviously, his family is not a case for resettlement to the USA. Another day at the office! I smile and run next door to relay the story to my supervisor and hand the family’s biographical information to the file clerks for placement in the rejected file.