When Sickness Separates Families: Limited Services and Life on the Streets

Raju* was only five-years old when his mother was admitted to hospital. She was incredibly unwell. With a lack of services available in the hospital such as meal provision, responsibility fell on Raju’s father to both care for her, and their boys. Sometimes there was simply no one that could take care of the kids and, encouraged by friends, it was during this time that Raju and his older brother started spending more and more time living on the streets.

The pair didn’t go unnoticed. One day they were approached by a Voice of Children staff member who suggested they come back to the drop-in centre where they could receive some help. Now at least safe in the immediate sense, the Voice of Children staff began the task of trying to deduce where the boys had come from and why they were there.

Two months passed, during which time the boys’ parents had been frantically looking for them. They tried every avenue they could think of, including taking out adverts in newspapers. Raju’s mother had now been released from hospital, and remembers this time as a tearful one: “I used to cry a lot.”

Finally, she heard about the drop in centre and located the boys. It was an emotional reunion in which Raju’s mother describes not wanting to let go of her children. But it wasn’t going to be easy be an easy fix. Upon returning home, the boys ran away again. It became clear the family needed additional support to stay together, with Voice of Children contacted to help facilitate this.

Raju’s family talk of how much Voice of Children helped them to become a stronger family unit, with support workers assisting the parents through advice on how to encourage the boys not to stray. On top of this, they also arranged an apprenticeship for Raju’s older brother, and a sewing machine for Raju’s father to help increase the family’s income. Without such support, Raju’s mother describes how the family “would be nowhere”.

Family strengthening through access to key support services is an important part of helping families stay together. By providing ongoing support to family members, alongside recognising that successful reintegration also requires the child to be ready, organisations like Voice of Children help support families to stay together.

*Names have been changed.

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