“Why Not a Family?”

I just wanted to share a little update update about a project I am working on at work. I’m working on getting a backlog of information digitalized and published on our website so our partners, donors and social work team can have access to more information and training. “Why Not a Family?” is one of those blocks of information. I think it’s a great informative tool to help explain to Khmer and expats what some of the benefits of family-based care for orphans and vulnerable children. If you have any questions about the information below. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.

“Why Not a Family?” is a short documentary that highlights the value of family in the lives of children growing up.  This video provides insights from three organizations that have years of work experience in Cambodia supporting orphans and vulnerable children through provision of family-based care.

Imagine a grandmother, caring for three grandchildren and struggling to raise them. The grandchildren need uniforms and books to attend school.  She wants to send her grandchildren to school. Her neighbor tells her about an orphanage that could supply her grandchildren with school uniforms and books for their education.

She refuses until one day, when she does not have a rice crop, she is forced to bring her grandchildren to an orphanage. After that, the grandchildren grow up receiving education and enough food, but they are no longer close to their family.

They are not at home. They are separated from their family.  They do not receive the warmth of love and care. Volunteer teams often come to visit the children.  It looks like another world from what they were used to at home. Then one day, they have to leave the orphanage.

They are now teens and cannot be in an orphanage anymore.  They also cannot live with their family and former community, because they have been separated for so long and thus no longer see a place for themselves in the village with their family. They are on their own. However, in Cambodian society, relationships, family and community are important. These grandchildren feel scared and alone.  “Even though they lack a livelihood, they lacked everything in the family, but they did not want to separate from their families!” say Phan Chak of Bridges Organization.

Today, up to 80% of children living in orphanages in Cambodia have at least one surviving parent.  Most children have relatives who can care for them, if those families were supported. This figure coincides with global scale.

According to research launched in 2012, 90% of Cambodians asked felt that poor families should send their children to orphanages if the family could not provide their children with access to education.

Family-based care is a critical concept in the Policy for the Alternative Care of Children of the Royal Government of Cambodia, with care in a family being the priority choice for all orphans and vulnerable children. Growing children develop better in families and communities where families get support in caring for them.  Experts around the world believe that residential care is a weak solution for solving low-income problems. Orphanages should be temporary and a last resort, not the first option.  “Why not choose a family? It is cost effective. It is natural and it promotes the whole society,” says Cathleen Jones, Founder of Children in Families.

The solution?

Family-based care means keeping the children in close proximity with close relatives or living with a second family (foster family) who can support them.  This is a better and more effective way. UNICEF, Save the Children and other organizations worldwide support family-based care as the best option for orphans and vulnerable children.

Currently in Cambodia, some families have been successful in caring for additional children because there are organizations that can provide them with additional income, rice, and  minimum tuition fees for education. Staff from these organizations monitor and track development monthly.

Family-based care programs operate in many developing countries, including Cambodia.  The programs require strong case management structures and social work staff, but supporting children to live permanently in a family needs only a small portion of the cost it takes to bring up a child in an orphanage.  Family-based care is the best option for children who need long term alternative care.

The Royal Government of Cambodia has a policy to reduce the numbers of children living in residential care and is encouraging orphanages to transform into providing family- and community-based care.  Transforming orphanages into centers that empower communities to support and strengthen local families to care for their own children is a vision for a bright future for Cambodian families and Cambodian society.

There are some who are worried that a reduction in the numbers of orphanages will mean a reduction in educational opportunities available for poor children. Others are concerned for those children in crisis situations.  However there are family- and community-based services and program models which can provide the appropriate support, protection and care for the children in these circumstances, without resorting to long term residential care.

Why not support a program that is supporting and strengthening poor families and their children in their local community?

There are three ways you can help share this information:

  1. Show this video to community members as well as other institution heads, then discuss family-based alternative care.
  2. Talk about the importance of caring for children in a family in your community.
  3. To help your organization become an organization that supports family-based care, be sure to let M’lup Russey know.  We can provide additional training.

You can watch the entire “Why Not a Family” video here:

Additional translations can be found on M’lup Russey Organization’s YouTube page.

For more information about M’lup Russey Organization, please check out: http://mluprussey.org.kh or call 078 222 660.

If you are a local Cambodian organization and are interested in receiving DVD copies of “Why Not a Family?” please email info@mluprussey.org.kh

Produced with support from:

M’lup Russey Organization – Cooperating with government leaders at the policy level.  To provide training, caring and helping families be together, as well as family-friendly maintenance in moments of urgency.

Children in the Families – Supporting children in caring for families and educating as well as urgent interventions to keep children living in families and communities.

Bridges Organization – Supports nearly 2,000 orphans with family members and staff, as well as a network of local volunteers.

Produced and Directed by Andy Gray.

Recording and Cutting by Khin Sina.

Traditional Khmer Song by Phan Sok Khoeun.

Piano (Early Pinyin) by Nagai.

This video was produced in 2012 through International Cooperation Cambodia-Project SKY, the project localised to become M’lup Russey Organization.

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