Worldwide, millions of children live in child care institutions (CCIs)/orphanages, yet 80% of these children have at least one living parent. Abuse, poverty, exploitation, conflict, displacement and lack of awareness of the value of family contribute to children being separated from their families. As societies grow and change, we need to ensure that struggling families receive the support they need to remain or become loving places where children are cared for holistically.
People with a desire to meet children’s needs have responded to children separated from their families by establishing CCIs. Whilst a good institution can provide children with food, safety, education and community, there are limits to this care. In a home such as an orphanage, with many children to look after, holistic emotional care is just not possible for every child. Research shows that there are detrimental effects of institutional care on children’s brain activity, social and emotional development. Furthermore, when children grow too old for the home, many do not have the support they need when forging a life into the future.
It is well-known that the best environment for a child to thrive physically, emotionally, spiritually and developmentally is within a safe and loving family. There is a growing body of opinion, supported by international standards that recognises that the best way to provide care for children is to support them in their families and if they lose parents or become separated, that they are reunited quickly with family members or provided with an alternative family environment.
We need to reverse the current norm of caring for children in institutions and strengthen families to prevent separation in the first place. Within today’s fragmented world, where family breakdown is common, the church has an opportunity to be promoting positive family values within its own constituency and supporting those families that are struggling, to stay together.
In order to create cities without orphans, we need to tackle the problems of separation and institutional care from all angles. This includes strengthening and supporting families to prevent breakdown and abuse; rescuing children who are separated from their families and working with child care institutions to adapt their remit from long-term care to half-way houses that are committed to relocating children back with their families or with alternative family-based care.
We want individuals and Civil Society groups across the city to be promoting children in strong families and preventing children from becoming separated from families. Public Services across the city also need to have a shared sense responsibility for children and commitment to support families through legislation, law enforcement, funding, resourcing, information sharing and integrated front line services. The Private Sector must promote the support of families and not engage in any exploitative practices against children.
To build a solution for cities without orphans, the networks need to influence children and young people, families, child-care practitioners, churches, community, network members, government, media, duty bearers and business. A strong, networked approach is the only way to coordinate a response that will reach into all these areas.
Following situational mapping and pilot programmes, three key programme objectives and the activities needed to achieve them have been identified to begin to work towards a city solution to prevent children in all sectors of society from becoming orphaned.
The three programme objectives are:
- Prevention: Strengthening Families to help children remain in Families through activities including:
- Training children as Child Ambassadors and in child protection
- Strengthening families through income generation, parenting classes and with family coaches
- Training churches and schools in child protection and alternative discipline
- Training churches in the importance of strong families
- Community advocacy through the Good Treatment Campaign and media with the message that ‘‘Children need love and care of parents or extended family/Family is better than Institutions’’
- Advocating governments to take pro-family stances
- Rescue Separated Children: Short Term Emergency Based Care through activities including:
- Rescuing children from the streets, providing counselling, half-way houses and medical screening
- Family Counselling
- Liaising with schools to provide education for rescued children who are out of school
- Community awareness and media campaigns to fight stigma and challenge exploitation
- Reuniting Families: Children currently in residential care through activities including:
- Locating existing family members or where family cannot be found, identifying and training a family able to foster or adopt
- Preparing children for safe reintegration with counselling, mentoring and child protection
- Supporting families through home visits, counselling, business advice and church links
- Working with residential care homes on principles of family reintegration, safe home environments and holistic child development
- Child Protection Committees in communities
- Liaising and collaborating with government and law and order services
- Awareness raising in community, churches and through media to promote fostering and adoption
Read our Family strategy grid.
Our partner network, CRANE, is coordinating a city-wide response to reintegrate children into families in Kampala, Uganda. Over the past five years, CRANE has reunited 1,016 children with their families. As well as working with local community, the network is engaging with city and national authorities to form a consortium that will tackle the need for children to be in families throughout the city. You can read about their first roundtable discussion here.
Read how CRANE are reintegrating children into families here.