Mental Health – October 14 2021

Teaming up with unaccompanied children and youth

Children who have experienced conflict, war and displacement, including separation from their families, face high levels of stress and trauma and are at an increased risk of long-term mental health issues. The TeamUp programme helps children process emotions and regain safety and stability through play and other movement-based activities.

TeamUp, developed and promoted by War Child Holland in partnership with UNICEF and Save the Children, relies on the train-the-trainer model. This means that people working with children in migration receive training by professionals to become TeamUp facilitators. They do not need to be mental health professionals to facilitate the intervention.

A group of 14 people working with children in migration in different organizations in Greece, Sweden and Italy gathered in Amsterdam in early September, eager to become TeamUp facilitators and apply the programme in their work.

“What motivates me the most about TeamUp is the fact that it is dynamic and that it demonstrates through the body what is hard to translate into words, generating positive impacts for children,” says participant Sara Ferreira da Silva, cultural mediator of Centro PENC Antropologia e psicologia geoclinica.

In different sessions and training modules during several days, the participants learned about trauma-informed practices and the TeamUp methodology, setting expectations, and evaluating progress. The aim is for the facilitators to help establish a sense of security, promote social connectedness, increase self-regulation, and foster a positive outlook on life among children in their different programmes.

“Facilitators always observe, adapt and evaluate sessions using structured forms in order to assess the needs of the children. Facilitators can therefore also observe possible child safeguarding and child protection issues and report them accordingly,” says Marco Cinnirella, social theatre operator and TeamUp trainer of SOS Children’s Villages. “The more you apply TeamUp, the greater the positive response of the children you work with is,” he adds.

“I think the methodology is applicable and essential for all children, since the feelings it promotes are basic and important for all,” states Frida Bengtsson, aspiring TeamUp trainer of Save the Children Sweden.

The TeamUp activities and training of trainers are part of the three-year project called “EPSUM – Enhancing Psychosocial Wellbeing of Unaccompanied Minors” supported by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs.

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*Text by Elisabeth Schmidt-Hieber.