I returned to Vietnam on Wednesday night, and after just one day at the centre, Vietnam has been on holidays - a 4 day long weekend!
Although the centre has been closed, there have been 2 tiny runaway boys, aged 14 and 15, in our care. A couple of the staff - both former street kids themselves - have been helping me to look after them. The 2 boys (from different provinces) have apparently run away many times before, and it's clear that they both have some serious issues at home. Our only progress so far is that we've been able to find out their real names, and make contact with their families over the phone. At this point, though, there's no sign of them agreeing to us visiting their homes.
Dealing with runaways can be very complicated for Blue Dragon. Our first priority is to protect the kids, but we don't have any legal authority to support children or let them live in our homes without their parents' permission. Which means that in cases where we are sure there's some kind of abuse taking place, we still have a legal obligation to either reunite the child with the family, or refuse the child any ongoing support from our organisation.
To date, we've mostly been able to work out compromises. Some of the 56 runaway children we have helped so far have gone to live with a relative, such as an aunt or grandparent, instead of going back to an abusive home life. Others have eventually moved in to Blue Dragon homes, with the permission (or at least the knowledge) of their parents.
For these 2 new kids, I'm really not sure how we're going to find a safe, long term solution!