Cambodia Releases Important Publication on Children

The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY), with support from UNICEF, today released the important publication to guide the ongoing national efforts to reform its child care system, with the aim of reducing the number of residential care institutions and increasing family-based care services for vulnerable children.

According to the UNICEF's press release, the publication is the Capacity Development Plan for family support, foster care and adoption which was jointly carried out by the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) and International Social Service (ISS). The Plan presents key actions required by 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. We are also developing procedures and training tools for professionals on kinship care, foster care and adoption, said H.E. Vong Sauth, Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation. Stronger safeguards and standards will be introduced. 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, despite the fact that most of them have at least one living parent. As a result, residential care has become the primary service for vulnerable children, despite the Convention on the Rights of the Child's guiding principle that every child has the right to grow up with their own family whenever circumstances allow it.

Children should never be separated from their parents simply because of poverty. Families should receive the support they need to be able to provide proper care for their children, said Ms. Debora Comini, UNICEF Representative to Cambodia. 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.

Family-based care, such as kinship care, foster care and adoption, are the alternatives to residential care being promoted by 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.

The Capacity Development Plan also identifies two major remaining challenges that need to be addressed before resuming inter-country adoption. Firstly, inter-country adoption should be properly integrated into the domestic child protection system, with domestic family-based care solutions prioritised. Secondly, the existing legal framework must be adequately implemented by ensuring that all authorities taking part in the adoption procedure have the necessary powers, resources, knowledge, and experience concerning child protection and adoption.

At the event held today, MoSVY also released the Study on Alternative Care Community Practices for children in Cambodia, including Pagoda-based care. 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. Furthermore, there are no minimum standards of care for children in boarding schools which should provide information to the Department of Social Affairs on the number of children residing in the school. In addition, the study suggests that pagodas and other faith-based institutions caring for more than 10 children should employ a full time trained caregiver.

The study also strongly recommends increasing the number of professional social workers within MoSVY and partner organisations 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 including the national cash transfer programme, said H.E. Vong Sauth. With support from UNICEF, MoSVY is conducting a business case for social work, which we will use to advocate for increased national financial and human resource investments in social work.

Source: Agency Kampuchea Press