FEATURED: Every child needs a family: Yes we care!

The four-day conference held at Golden Tulip Hotel in Nyamata gathered childcares from different countries.

SOS Children’s Villages Rwanda concluded phase one of the “Community Action for Quality Alternative Care and Protection” after three-years of piloting the program. 

On the 2nd of December 2019, SOS Children Villages convened an outcome harvest meeting together with its stakeholders to share the findings from its 3-year-pilot program (the community action for quality alternative care and protection) that was implemented in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zanzibar. 

 

Officials from these respective countries attended this meeting alongside partner country representatives from Ethiopia, Somaliland and Denmark. 

 

The meeting was officiated by the Executive Secretary of National Commission for Children in Rwanda.

 

This program ensured that children at the risk of losing parental care receive appropriate quality care and protection taking into consideration the principle of suitability and necessity. 

Therefore, the primary focus was to build the capacity of the SOS, partners and caregivers to respond appropriately to the needs of children in the various forms of alternative care, service delivery and modelling the different forms of alternative and evidence-based advocacy to reform policies and programs.

Participants during the meeting noted that every child deserves quality care to ensure that they develop to their fullest potential to be contributing members of society.  Therefore, to support those children who have been separated or lost parental care from their primary caregivers, a fair start-training model was used to build the capacity of caregivers to enable bonding and positive relationships. 

In addition, more efforts are placed to strengthen gatekeeping as to avert further separations and inappropriate placement of children. Social workforce seems to have adequate knowledge in alternative care, therefore national manuals on alternative care have been developed to bridge this gap together with stakeholders. For enhanced advocacy, there was the formation of the national coalition on alternative care.  

Further to note is that children in alternative care hardly have access to social services and government subsidies like health insurance, school fees and linkage social safety nets. These are mainly cared for by elderly care that limits the quality of care most often. 

Furthermore, they lack birth certificates and this complicates the process of these children to access travel documents and any other services they may need. 

This also worsens with the weak social protection systems in place that limit the monitoring of these children in the various forms of alternative care, thus, such children are unknown and uncounted for.

Therefore, SOS Children Villages and its partners in the next 4 years will continue to implement this program to strengthen the findings from the pilot and bridge the identified gaps. The primary focus will be to ensure that children in the various forms of alternative care are counted through strengthening national management information systems. 

In addition, there will be a focus on strengthening the social protection systems at the community level to monitor and respond to the needs of children in the various forms of alternative care and ensure multi-sectoral approaches in implementing alternative care through a collaborative and partnership manner.  

Therefore, this will reduce the duplication of resources and linkages to social services. It takes each one of our feelings about children we serve but not the work of the organization we serve. 

According to Liberal Seburikoko, SOS Children’s Villages Rwanda National Director, childcare convenes to stretch ways of fostering children without parental care. “We want to find new mechanisms of helping abandoned and vulnerable children without institutionalizing them into centres,” said Seburikoko.

Prioritizing children’s rights to a family

In line with children’s care and protection, the government of Rwanda in 2012 endorsed a landmark Strategy for National Child Care Reform.

The reform’s goal was to change the institutionalization of vulnerable children to a family-based system where they would regain their right to living in a loving, supportive family environment.

Key actors in children’s rights such as NGOs and government bodies continue to bolster towards the provision of the right to a family.

Therefore, SOS Community Action and Quality Alternative Care and Protection program was implemented in Kayonza District- in the 2 sectors approximately-this supported the pilot study of nearly 2,297 families to improve on quality care for children in various alternative care options especially those in informal kinship and foster care.  

This has enabled to provide children with rights to alternative care when accessing civil registration something that facilitates their opportunity to acquire birth registration certificate, health insurance as well as enabling them to rejoin schools after years of dropping out. 

The project also traced and registered children who are in informal alternative care as reported by the project coordinator John Kagaju from Kayonza. Eight children were reintegrated from family-based alternative care to biological family, according to Kagaju.

Citing existing strategies such as foster parenting, guardianship, and adoption, Seburikoko observed that people often tend to keep children in centres without considering children’s rights to a family. 

Evidently, nonetheless, Rwanda before the 20th century never recorded such institutions, according to a conference panellist Mr James Nduwayo, a coordinator of Tubarere mu Muryango Program (TMM) from NCC. When parents died, he said, members of the extended family would raise the orphaned children.

Shrinking humanity

In the middle of the conference, one delegate from Tanzania shared a story of a newborn that was rescued by a dog after the mother deposited the baby in a trash bin on the street.

In reference to the story, he wondered what went sideways when it comes to leaving orphanages and child centres with the role that is meant to be played by parents, Seburikoko ranks individualism or selfishness as top factors diminishing humanity.

Claudine Uwera Kanyamanza, the executive secretary of NCC, made the same observation noting that putting an end to institutionalization of children requires a joint effort.

“We are partnering with organizations such as SOS Children’s Villages Rwanda and learning from other countries to learn better ways of bringing children back into families,” she noted.

Claudine Uwera Kanyamanza, Executive Secretary - NCC.

Kanyamanza optimistically resonates with the possibility of the family-based system arguing that the rising standards of life would not block the way if families were trained.

She disclosed that many foster families do not live on high-income standards.  

Both officials urge the Rwandan society to rethink humanity in order to give neglected children the right and chance to grow in a family.

In the project’s next phase, that will last four years, SOS Children’s Villages Rwanda plans to expand its horizons to all seven districts of the Eastern Province.

The 40-year-old organization has sealed footprints in catering for children and young people without parental care.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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