The Oak Life Journal
Jul | Aug 2022
(Led by Isaiah Cory, our News Feed covers major stories and developments in international orphan care. We believe staying up-to-date is important for every orphanage director and caregiver, as these events can teach us, warn or encourage us, and indirectly impact our homes.)
Kenya to End the Use of Residential Orphanages
In June, Kenya announced a National Care Reform strategy with the goal that by 2031 all children in Kenya will live in family or community-based care. The strategy was developed with the support of UNICEF and is intended to guide each county’s transition into these alternative forms of care. By family-based care, the document refers to parental care, kinship care, kafala, foster care, guardianship, and adoption.
Community-based care is defined as “a range of approaches designed to enable children to remain with their own (or extended) family . . . or to be placed with an alternative family within their community.” And while there are a few other approaches detailed, they are all characterized by small scale, stable environments where children receive individualized care.
This reorientation is part of a decades-long global trend which is characterized by a shift away from institutionalized care for children. Institutions are seen as key partners and agents in this transition, helping not only to care for children in the intermediary but in the long-term to become providers of indispensable community-based services.
Reintegration during the COVID pandemic lockdowns saw a 42% reduction in the number of children living in registered facilities in Kenya. The effects of this rapid reintegration on the physical and mental health of the children, as well as the financial health of the institutions, are as yet undefined and may pose both obstacles and opportunities for this transition moving forward.
National Council for Children’s Services, 2022. The National Care Reform Strategy for Children in Kenya. Republic of Kenya. Available at: https://bettercarenetwork.org/sites/default/files/2022-06/kenya_national_care_reform_strategy_web_version.pdf
Ukrainian Families Leaving Behind Their Special Needs Children
According to reporting from the BBC, thousands of Ukrainian children with special needs have been abandoned by their caregivers. Some of the carers fled the armed conflict with the less-disabled children, leaving behind those with more acute needs in institutions which are well-intentioned but unprepared to care for them. One institution received twenty-two teenage girls with acute special needs. Disability experts visiting the group homes in Western Ukraine are noting a decline in the children because they are not receiving sufficient stimulation and rehabilitation care.
Eric Rosenthal, executive director of Disability Rights International, appeared on BBC’s Ukrainecast to discuss the plight of these disabled orphans. He reveals in the interview that his organization has spent three years investigating the system in Ukraine and concludes that children with special needs are “left into a slow death”–by which he means their gradual deterioration. Not only now but even before the conflict with Russia, Rosenthal says that the system of alternative child care in Ukraine is “tragic and inexcusable.”
Children with disabilities are invisible and often demonstrate signs of neglect. In too many instances, these children lack even basic medical attention. Rosenthal calls for the allocation of foreign aid toward medical care for disabled orphans and hopes for their reintegration into families within which they can build stable attachments.
BBC, 2022. Disabled orphaned abandoned. [podcast] Ukrainecast. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0c559xx
BBC News, 2022. Disabled children “abandoned” in Ukrainian institutions. (video) Available at: https://youtu.be/GiTYvTa6spY
Russian Kidnapping of Ukrainian Children, Allegations Under Investigation
The United Nations continues to investigate allegations of the forcible deportation of orphan children from Ukraine to Russia. The Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine heard multiple testimonies of children disappearing from alternative care institutions in occupied territories.
Nevertheless, data on the number of missing children from these institutions remain ambiguous and reports that they have been taken to Russia for adoption are unconfirmed as of yet. Some fear that the Russian government is preparing to fast-track children into adoptions without concern for the best interests of the child. However, further confirmation is required to substantiate these allegations.
UN News. 2022. UN’s Bachelet concerned over Ukraine orphans ‘deported’ to Russia for adoption. [online] Available at: https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/06/1120412