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How do I conduct family tracing?

How do I conduct family tracing?

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Due to the pandemic, efforts should be made to expedite family tracing to find and place children quickly, yet responsibly.

People Involved

  • Caseworker
  • Child
  • Authorities
  • Family
  • Organization’s administration
  • Community leaders and members



Overview of family tracing process

  • Start gathering leads using the information on the intake forms for your institution. These should correspond with your government reporting.
  • The community can be a primary help to you in family tracing. Talking with police, pastors, other organizations or referring parties can be essential in starting off a cold family tracing. 
  • Prioritize staff safety during the family tracing process. Don’t subject them to unnecessary risk especially during a time of health crisis with COVID-19.
  • Once leads have been obtained, a tracing visit will be made by the caseworker to determine if the family can meet the needs of the child and is willing to receive the child.
  • Children can be involved directly in tracing where safe and appropriate (for example, some children may be able to recognize the home community and the exact household if they are included in field visits). If abuse led to the child’s separation, they might be hesitant and multiple placement options may be needed.
  • As much as possible during the pandemic, caseworkers should aim to complement the family meeting with conversations with extended family members, community leaders, neighbors, NGOs/CBOs and others who know the family. 
  • If no family can be traced despite considerable effort, the local government should be informed, so alternative families can be explored for assessment with their guidance.

Active family tracing

  • Tracing referral and the child’s details.
  • Request relevant partners operating in the tracing location to conduct the tracing action based on the location of the adult being traced.
  • Maintain good contact with the partners who engage competent caseworkers to undertake tracing action.
  • Ensure adequate information is available to the tracing partner to facilitate successful tracing. 
  • Ensure tracing methods are culturally appropriate for the community and context of tracing.
  • Use practical family tracing experiences 
  • Help caseworkers balance between principles of confidentiality and practical realities in the field.
  • Use standard approach and tools for data collection for tracing i.e. family tracing and reintegration forms.
  • Agree on standards for information sharing (i.e. need-to-know basis).
  • Update the child or parents on tracing progress and next steps.

What if no family can be traced?

  • If the parents are unable or unwilling, then extend your search to include extended family members on both sides of the family.
  • Sometimes a nearby aunt, uncle, or other suitable placement can be found.
  • If that fails there may be a temporary placement option with family, extended family, or even good Samaritan or foster care family that the child can be placed with.
  • Be sure to keep the local government informed, so alternative families can be explored for assessment with their guidance.