Workshop held to raise awareness for community based child care
Yangon, 7-8 July 2008 - A two-day workshop aiming at raising awareness on the importance of family and community based care for children was held in Yangon on 7th and 8th July, 2008.
Over 80 participants from the government, faith based organisations, UN, INGOs, LNGOs and institutions across the country attended the workshop organised by the Department of Social Welfare, UNICEF, Save the Children and World Vision, in collaboration with other members of the cluster on the protection of women and children.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, the acting Director General from DSW U Aung Htun Khaing said that family and community based care for children should be given priority before sending them to institutions.
The country representative of UNICEF, Mr Ramesh Shrestha in his opening remarks stated that children were more vulnerable than others when they were separated from their families for a variety of reasons. “Globally, it is recognised that it is in the best interest of the child to be raised in a permanent family environment”, he said.
“Children without parents should not automatically categorized as orphans.” That is why the priority is to trace the families of separated and unaccompanied children. When parents cannot be found, the best solution is to place them in families within the child’s existing community, he said.
Following the opening session, the acting DG made a presentation on the government’s National Plan of Action for Child Protection in Emergency. He said he was pleased with the successful collaboration between the government and child protection agencies in response to the cyclone Nargis.
During the working sessions, the participants actively took part in-group discussions and shared their field experiences, especially in the aftermath of the cyclone Nargis.
Participants agreed that child protection was important not only in the initial phase of an emergency but also in the longer term. They also highlighted the risks of secondary separations due to family breakdowns and challenges in rebuilding their lives and suggested supporting affected and vulnerable families especially single-headed households with many children as a means of mitigating these risks.
During the workshop, the participants developed an action plan that highlighted the issue of awareness raising on the importance of family and community based care, providing support to vulnerable and foster families, promotion of small group homes and independent living.
Residential institutions were encouraged to enforce stricter admission criteria and gradually transform into community based support services for families and children. Several institutions shared their experience of transforming their facilities into more family-like environments, and of facilitating regular contact between children and their families.
Caregivers were recommended to register all children emphasising the tracing and reunification of separated and unaccompanied children and applying minimum standards for care and support.
Making linkages between institutions and community based care, increased collaboration and information sharing between agencies, especially in the family-tracing network, through information hubs and the establishment of monitoring mechanisms and follow up for children placed in alternative care were some of the other recommendations.
In his closing remarks, the acting Director General from DSW U Aung Htun Khaing thanked all the participants, stating that the recommendations that emerged from the workshop were in line with the National Plan of Action to protect children in emergencies. He expressed DSW’s commitment to continue working with all agencies to achieve these goals.