Rehab Programs for Traumatized Youth Yield Different Results, but All Better than Nothing

Although psychosocial rehabilitation programs for traumatized children tend to vary widely in terms of resources, methodologies, objectives, and ultimate outcomes, a new thesis study found that the biggest differentiating factor between positive and negative outcomes appears when comparing rehabilitated children with those who have not undergone any rehabilitation at all.

“Different programs for taking care of traumatized children have different effects. But the main difference is between putting any program into work and doing nothing at all,” said researcher Dr. Kumari Thoradeniya at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

For the study, Thoradeniya compared three different psychosocial rehabilitation programs for war-affected children in war-torn Sri Lanka: the Muditha program, operated in a Sinhala village in Vavuniya district; the Karuna program in the Batticaloa district of the Eastern Province; and the Upeksha program, also in the Batticaloa district.

The Muditha program was initiated by a Buddhist monk when some children sought his protection and care. At the time of the study, there were nearly 80 children in this program, 90 percent of whom were Tamils from the Northern Province.

The Karuna program was started following requests by the government and non-government officials. In 2005 the program employed 46 staff members, all of whom had prior knowledge of conducting a psychosocial rehabilitation program, for the 300 Tamil children in their care.

Lastly, the Upeksha program was started by a Catholic priest living in the same war-torn area as the community he served. The program involved groups of 25 Tamil and 25 Muslim children, and equal numbers of boys and girls, for nine months. After nine months, another group with the same composition was selected.

Field studies for her thesis were undertaken in 2005, in which Kumari used interviews, questionnaires, and observations to gather data. The programs were also compared with a group of children who had not been subject to any rehabilitation at all.

“The impact levels of each of the programs were different because of their differences in objectives, approaches, and methodologies, as well as varying levels of human and material resources,” said Kumari.

“However, when comparing the rehabilitated children with those who had not gone through any rehabilitation, there was a remarkable difference. The rehabilitated children showed a much higher possibility of becoming normal citizens compared to those who had not undergone any rehabilitation.”

The results underscore the need to recognize requirements for psychosocial rehabilitation, as this is intrinsic to long-term personal as well as social development.

“Government policies should include psychosocial support for victims of war, and should take into account issues such as local human resources, building capacity, enhancing resilience, networking, advocacy, and coordination with other actors when addressing the psychosocial well-being of a population.”

Source: University of Gothenburg