Abstract for: Enhancing Inclusion of Children with Special Needs in Kakuma Refugee Camp

There are about 160,000 refugees in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya, including vulnerable subpopulations like children with special needs. Since 2010, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) provides specialized care to children with special needs in Kakuma and now serves about 200 children annually. The dynamic problem was to design a program to achieve greater wellbeing through enhanced inclusion. Educational mainstreaming, or integrating children with special needs into traditional classrooms, is considered best practice to support inclusion. Community-based system dynamics (CBSD) engaged stakeholders in modeling inclusion and wellbeing of children with special needs to inform program design and explore incorporating mainstreaming. The process convened JRS staff, parents, community leaders, and teachers separately to understand unique perspectives and then jointly to build consensus around problem dynamics and make recommendations based on system insights. The process enabled diverse stakeholders to engage in modeling and seeded organizational capabilities for future work using CBSD. Model insights broadened the definition of inclusion and led to a reinterpretation of mainstreaming for program design. As a result, the organization is piloting a program that flips mainstreaming so children with special needs still receive individualized care while integrating children from traditional classrooms into the center for added educational and socialization benefits.