In Myanmar, status amongst local faith leaders is strongly linked to achieving the trifecta of running a church, school and orphanage. Many leaders recruit children from families in impoverished ethnic minority communities into their orphanages for the purpose of soliciting overseas donations which are then used to fund their other ministries. Others believe that placing children in their orphanages guarantees the best outcomes for their education, future livelihood, spirituality and character, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
In either case, families that could be supported to care for their own children are instead pressured to send their children to live in orphanages many miles away. Separated from their families, communities, language and culture, many children fail to thrive in the orphanage environment where their needs cannot be met, and where they are often subject to neglect, abuse and exploitation.
In response, ACCIR established Kinnected Myanmar in 2015 to identify and work alongside orphanage directors and their key donors who might be open to transitioning out of the orphanage model into family and community-based care.
The project has four main components:
1. A working group for orphanage directors aiming to help them understand the harmful effects of orphanage care, and to see that God designed children to be raised in families;
2. A working group for donors designed to create a peer environment for orphanage supporters as they navigate the complex transition process away from orphanage care;
3. A technical unit of qualified and experienced social workers that facilitate the safe reintegration of children into their families through robust procedures; and
4. A community of practice for orphanage directors that have successfully moved away from orphanage care and are now working on community development, community awareness and advocacy initiatives to prevent more children from entering into orphanage care.
Now registered as a local non-governmental organisation and in partnership with the governmental Department of Social Welfare, Kinnected Myanmar works with multiple orphanages to reconnect children with their families, reintegrating them through comprehensive social work processes that focus on ensuring they are safe and sustainably supported.
Kinnected Nepal is a new Kinnected initiative that formally commenced in 2018, modelled off the success of the Kinnected Myanmar program.
Kinnected Nepal’s vision is to see children in Nepal actualise their right to grow up in a family.
Kinnected Nepal’s activities aim to contribute towards scaling back the use of institutional care amongst faith-based actors in Nepal, reintegrating children currently in care back into families and preventing institutionalisation through advocacy and awareness raising.
The overuse of residential care and the trafficking of children into institutional care are significant issues in Nepal often driven by tourism, voluntourism and international funding.
The seriousness of this issue has lead to orphanage trafficking being included in the US State Department’s TIP (Trafficking in Persons) report and the Nepalese Government including orphanage trafficking in the definition of trafficking under domestic legislation leading to prosecutions.
Unfortunately, church networks spanning rural and urban areas can act as recruitment pathways used by traffickers to find children to place in institutions. At present there is a lack of awareness of orphanage trafficking amongst faith-based communities and this is a crucial gap area that Kinnected Nepal aims to address.
Kinnected Nepal activities will include:
Establishment and support of the ‘Keeping Families Together - Nepal Alliance’
A group of Nepalese organisations interested in advocating for this issue was formed after initial training and Kinnected workshops held in Kathmandu in April 2018.
The aim of this group is to facilitate advocacy amongst faith-based networks/groups and involvement in broader care reform efforts in Nepal.
Development of resources and awareness raising activities
In collaboration with members of the ‘Keeping Families Together’ alliance, advocacy tools will be developed and advocacy events held in communities, churches and faith based networks to raise awareness regarding the importance of children being raised in families, the impacts of residential care on children and the issue of orphanage trafficking.
Provide technical support and training to orphanage directors and residential care institutions
Technical support will be provided to support residential care organisations as they undergo the complex process of transition and to ensure the safe reintegration of children back into families.
Kinnected Nepal is run in partnership with TearFund Ireland and Forget Me Not Australia.