Four years since the government embarked on a mission to close orphanages and other children’s institutions and reintegrate children into family based care, the National Commission for Children (NCC) says that nearly 900 children still await placement.
Speaking to The New Times, on Tuesday, NCC’s Senior Programme Manager of Tumurerere Mu Muryango, Esperence Uwicyeza explained that 3044 children have since been integrated in families.
Uwicyeza said that the number of children in institutions today would have been smaller but it shot up when more were discovered after the initial survey.
“This programme started as a result of a survey by the Government of Rwanda and its partner NGOs and it showed that there were 3323 children in 33 institutions located in 19 districts. As per December 2017, there were 892 children that awaited adoption mainly because some institutions were discovered later because they were not registered initially,” she said.
Among the 33 organisations identified by the survey and four more discovered after the survey, 25 institutions (orphanages) have so far managed to reintegrate all children who were living there.
Since 2012, Uwicyeza said that NCC has been working closely with institutions to reintegrate children, actively involving social workers and psychologists in the process.
“We have 68 trained social workers and psychologists who are operational in the districts with orphanages to ensure safe child placement, reintegration and follow-up,” she said.
She pointed out the establishment of community-based services to ensure sustainable reintegration, where 29674 Inshuti z’Umuryango (Friends of Family), are in place all districts where there are two men and one woman per village to ensure regular monitoring of the welfare of reintegrated children and to respond to other child protection issues.
Uwicyeza told The New Times that though the programme is at 90 per cent success rate, there were still challenges.
“We have an issue of mindset, especially when it comes to children with disabilities. They still don’t understand that these children can go to school and become independent in the future. We need to set standards and raise awareness,” she said.
The executive director of Health Development Initiative, a local NGO that supports vulnerable people’ Dr Aphrodis Kagaba said in a telephone interview that while integrating children in families is a good move, there was need to put much more effort in sensitisating the masses.
“Obviously, it’s always a better idea for a child to grow up surrounded by family but you must invest in teaching, sensitising the masses about why this is of value to their communities. Some families may be having socio-economic constraints but there are also those that are doing well. You must let them see that these children are ours,” he said.
While there are children who are severely disabled and have not had an opportunity at adoption because their families cannot be traced, there is also another category where one or both parents or an extended family member are alive.
“A pilot reintegration of children in one institution in Kicukiro District was done with successful results. The pilot de-institutionalisation showed that more than 70 per cent of children who were living in the institution (Mpore Pefa) had their biological or extended families,” he added.