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Kingdom to fix child welfare

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A young boy looks out the window at an orphanage in Siem Reap. A Unicef report shows almost 80 per cent children living in the Kingdom’s orphanages have a living mother or father. george nickels

Kingdom to fix child welfare

Some of 16,579 children under the age of 18 living in 406 orphanages in the Kingdom last year, almost 80 per cent have a living mother or father, a United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) report says.

Now, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation has set a goal to return 30 per cent of these children to their families. It also released two roadmaps on Thursday to reform the Kingdom’s child welfare system in collaboration with Unicef.

The Capacity Development Plan (CDP), a publication supported by Unicef suggests key actions to be taken from now until 2023 to improve foster care, adoption and support for orphans.

The CDP recommends “reducing the number of residential care institutions and increasing family-based care services for vulnerable children,” a joint news release said.

It said most Cambodian children living in residential care, such as orphanages and foster homes, have at least one living parent.

The minister Vong Sauth said: “We will establish a comprehensive database of all children in care to ensure that they benefit from the best care option for them.

“We are also developing procedures and training tools for professional on kinship care, foster care and adoption."

“Strong safeguards and standards will be introduced. All foster carers and adoptive parents will be carefully assessed, prepared, and followed-up to ensure they provide adequate care for the children.”

Debora Comini, the Unicef representative for Cambodia, said children should be given support when family was not able to provide for their needs.

“Children should never be separated from their parents, simply because of poverty. Families should receive the support they need to be able to prepare and provide for children."

“The implementation of these recommendations will be extremely important to continue child-care reform in Cambodia,” she said.

The ministry also released the Study on Alternative Care Community Practices (SACCP) for children in Cambodia, which looks at how different forms of alternative care – including pagoda-based care – are being used in the Kingdom.

The SACCP said that not all Cambodian children going into foster care or kinship care are registered with the Department of Social Affairs and that these support systems should be better assessed, prepared and supported.

The report suggested that pagodas and other faith-based institutions caring for more than 10 children should employ a full-time trained caregiver.

The SACCP also strongly recommended increasing the number of professional social workers within the ministry and other organisations to provide proper case management and support services to children and vulnerable families.

“The ministry 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,” Sauth said.

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