PHNOM PENH, Sept. 27 (Xinhua) — Cambodia’s Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY) on Thursday released two important publications to guide the ongoing national efforts to reform its child care system.
Supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the publications aimed at reducing the number of residential care institutions and increasing family-based care services for vulnerable children, said a joint press release.
The first publication is the Capacity Development Plan for family support, foster care and adoption, the release said, adding that the plan presents key actions required by the MoSVY, other government institutions and partners to improve care services for children without parental care, to ensure that they can still live in a family setting that promotes their full development.
“MoSVY has already started implementing some of the recommendations of this plan. As a priority, MoSVY will establish a comprehensive database of all children in care to ensure that all children benefit from the best care option for them,” said Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Sauth.
“We are also developing procedures and training tools for professionals on kinship care, foster care and adoption,” he said. “Stronger safeguards and standards will be introduced.”
The minister said all foster carers and adoptive parents will be carefully assessed, prepared and followed up with to ensure they are providing adequate care for the children.
In Cambodia, an alarming number of children live in residential care institutions, or orphanages, despite the fact that most of them have at least one living parent.
A last year’s report found that some 16,579 children under the age of 18 were living in 406 orphanages or one out of every 350 Cambodian children lived in an orphanage, and almost 80 percent of children in the orphanages have a living mother or father.
Debora Comini, UNICEF representative to Cambodia, said children should never be separated from their parents simply because of poverty, and families should receive the support they need to be able to provide proper care for their children.
“However, when a family is unable, even with appropriate support, to provide adequate care, children should receive the alternative care that meets their needs and still enables them to grow up in a loving home and enjoy all their rights,” she said.
Family-based care, such as kinship care, foster care and adoption, are the alternatives to residential care being promoted by the MoSVY, UNICEF and other partners. However, these forms of care require quality standards and careful monitoring to ensure that the protection of children and their best interests are being met.
At the event held on Thursday, the MoSVY also released the Study on Alternative Care Community Practices for children in Cambodia, including pagoda-based care, the release said, adding that this study is the first of its kind which sheds light on how different forms of alternative care are being used in the community.
The study found that not all children going into kinship and foster care are registered with the Department of Social Affairs and that kinship care and foster care providers should be better assessed, prepared and supported, it said.
The study suggests that pagodas and other faith-based institutions caring for more than 10 children should employ a full-time trained caregiver.
Also, the study strongly recommends increasing the number of professional social workers within the MoSVY and partner organizations to provide proper case management and support services to children and vulnerable families in the community.
“MoSVY considers the recommendation to increase the number of trained social workers as a priority, not only for child protection but also for successful implementation of social protection efforts,” Vong Sauth said.