FAMILY BASED ALTERNATIVE CARE: CHILDREN IN FAMILIES
There are tens of thousands of children in Cambodia living in orphanages however 77% of these children are not orphans but are placed into institutions for reasons of poverty. With little resource being directed to preserve vulnerable families, desperate parents often have no choice but to put their children in an orphanage in order to ensure that they receive adequate food, clothing and an education. This is in stark contrast to the Cambodian Government’s policy, which states that children should grow up in families where possible and residential care should be a last resort and a temporary option for children in recognition of the detrimental impacts residential care can have on children’s development.
Children In Families (CIF) was established in 2006, by individuals concerned about the overuse of institutions in caring for the needs of Cambodia’s children at risk. Children In Families recognise the rights of a child to grow up in a family and the responsibility for governments and service providers to ensure there are adequate family based services for children who legitimately need alternative care. CIF recognises that the love, nurturing and the security of a permanent family unit is fundamental to children holistic wellbeing and long-term outcomes.
KINSHIP & FOSTER CARE PROGRAM
CIF’s desire is to find permanent Cambodian families for children who cannot live with their biological parents, either temporarily or permanently, through kinship care, emergency foster care and long-term foster care programs. When a child is referred to CIF they work to determine if reintegration or family preservation with the child’s family is possible and support the family when it is. Where this is not possible then CIF finds either an extended family member or a foster care family for the child. Kinship and foster care families are supported by CIF with regards to children’s education, nutrition, medical care and other services where required.
Children with disabilities are at a much greater risk of being relinquished to institutional care and are much more vulnerable to the potential dangers and negative effects of institutional care. CIF’s ABLE program helps biological and foster families caring for children with disabilities gain access to both the resources and encouragement they need to continue to care for the child at home. ABLE staff are trained to provide therapeutic services to address challenges children may have in all areas of development and to help their families know how to help them as well. Through ABLE, children in CIF’s Kinship Care & Foster Care programs have access to special education, medical services and specialised equipment and support aids.
Children in Families programs:
• Decrease the overuse of institutional care and increase the availablity of family-based care services for vulnerable children
• Support and strengthen families and communities and prevent family separation
• Equip families to meet the needs of children with disabilities, and promote inclusion and participation in the community
• Raise awareness and provide education and training about family-based care and family preservation.
Case Study: Sam
Sam was received by Children In Families and placed into a foster family at the age of four. He had been rescued from a situation of abuse and severe neglect. When Children In Families stepped in to help, Sam was withdrawn and extremely isolated. He used no words to communicate, was very afraid of people, and was not yet toilet trained. He did not know how to engage in any kind of meaningful play, entertaining himself by sitting alone and running his hands through the dirt. The neighbours thought he was crazy and asked the CIF staff and Sam’s foster family how they thought they could help such a boy. They did not believe he was capable of learning and could not understand why this family would take him in.
Thankfully, Sam’s foster family believed in him, and their acceptance of Sam was the first step in his transformation. Their love and care began to break through Sam’s defensiveness and distrust of people. He began to trust and engage with his family members, though he still was very reserved with strangers and would often run to hide when other people were around.
Sam had been with his foster family for over a year before the ABLE program began providing services in February 2013. Sam was one of the first children to be evaluated and provided with regular visits. ABLE’s physiotherapist and Community Rehabilitation Team staff member provided instruction and resources to the family to help Sam work on his communication and play skills, and their regular visits helped Sam to become more comfortable with interacting with people outside his family as well.
Now Sam is excited and comes running to participate when he sees the ABLE staff arriving at his home for a visit. He is engaging much more with his foster family and with neighbours. He is continually learning new words and enjoys playing with toys along with other children. Sam is now six years old and, thanks to the love of his foster family and the intervention of the ABLE program, he is able to go to school. Even his foster family had hardly dared to hope that he would be ready for this significant step.