Many Cambodians face an impossible choice on a daily basis: give up their child in the hope of a better life or keep them knowing they cannot feed them.
Poverty, unemployment or illness drive families to leave their children at residential care facilities hoping it will provide them with the basic needs and education they cannot afford to give them. Thousands of families are separated in this way due to the lack of social support in Cambodia. According to the United Nations, most children living in residential care still have at least one living parent and many have living grandparents.
On a national level, the number of social workers and trained child protection professionals remains inadequate. Children with disabilities or living with HIV are likely to end up in residential care because their parents lack the knowledge and education required to address their needs.
Research shows that living in residential care has a negative impact on children’s social, physical and emotional development, diminishing their chances of achieving their full potential as adults.
Children in Families was founded in 2006 by former orphanage workers who wanted to see children in family-based care as opposed to institutional care.
The organisation works to find permanent Cambodian families for children through kinship care or long-term foster care for those who cannot be reunited with their birth parents. It strives to equip and strengthen families and communities to create a nurturing environment for the children.
The Foster Care programme identifies, screens and trains local Cambodian foster families to care for children and the Kinship Care programme works to keep children with their biological families.
The organisation provides family-based emergency support for children in crisis and provides ongoing training and support for families who have taken in children. It has also launched several awareness campaigns to educate others on the need for family-based care.
For children with disabilities or living with HIV, Children in Families provides in-home services to support families in helping their children live in optimal health while stressing inclusion and participation in the community.
Children in Families benefited 216 people, of which 210 are children, in 2015 alone.
Photo: Kimlong Meng