The Oak Life Journal
May | Jun 2021
(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.)
Pakistan Unveils New Orphanage Standards
Are They Enough?
A problem for Pakistan.
According to a report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Pakistan has 4.2 million orphans. The nation has developed both public and private-sector orphanages to serve the needs of these children.
The first of its kind?
Ehsaas is a Pakistani program “to reduce inequality, invest in [human capital], and lift lagging districts.” In 2019, Ehsaas commissioned a panel of experts to create the nation’s first-ever standards for private sector orphanages. This local paper praises the program for being the first of its kind in the Muslim world. The standards were unveiled in early April 2021.
Who was involved?
A stakeholder committee was convened with members from the major NGOs involved in alternative orphan care in Pakistan, along with local politicians. The expert panel had 17 formal meetings and 70 side sessions, according to The Express Tribune. Ms. Emelia Allan, a child protection specialist from UNICEF, was a member on the panel. UNICEF reportedly endorsed the standards.
So what are the standards?
There are 25 standards which cover six areas: Eligibility, Registration, & Allotment of Supplies; Nutrition & Health; Daily Routines & Activities; Education and Self-Development; Building, Accommodations & Facilities; and Staff & Management.
Some of the standards require private orphanages to develop formal diet plans, a calendar of annual activities, and job training opportunities. There are sample plans, schedules, and supply lists provided as templates.
To review the standards, you can read the Minimum Boarding Standards For Orphanages/Child Care Organizations in Pakistan.
Do the standards go far enough?
Ehsaas itself states that these are the minimum standards for orphanages. There is nothing particularly revolutionary about the standards. They promote a baseline protection for children in private sector orphanages and constitute an “initial step.”
The latest developments in alternative orphan care point to the superiority of family-based solutions. To the degree that standards work toward that end, they should be lauded. For example, standard 23 provides some basic rights for family visitation with the goal of reintegration. Future work could further promote efforts toward reunification, adoption, kafala, fostering, or other family-based solutions.
What about my own country’s standards?
For those of you working with or within an alternative care institution: What standards have been set by your government? How could you better meet or exceed those standards this year? If your institution excels in any area: How could you help train or mentor other institutions near you? What standards would you like your government adopt in the future?
Upcoming UN Discussion Seeks Children in Shelters to Participate
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child wants to hear from “experts” in alternative care. It is accepting submissions for the 2021 Day of General Discussion (DGD), taking place in September.
You may be an expert if…
You are a child or young person with experience of living in alternative care of any type.
You are an adult who is a practitioner, policy maker, or otherwise possessing some special knowledge or experience which allows you to meaningfully contribute to the subject of alternative care.
This kind of thing happens all the time, right?
No, in fact. The DGD is held only once every two years and addresses a different topic from the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This year, the discussion happens to revolve around a theme which is uniquely relevant to those of us working in alternative care.
A matter of influence.
The United Nations is one of the most influential institutions in orphan care. Many governments and NGOs take their cues from the United Nations. The final recommendations will guide the committee’s work in implementing new standards and promoting best practices in alternative care, which will provide benefits to children and caregivers everywhere. This is a moment of import if you have something to share.
What does the committee want?
- Evidence-based input on: “Innovative practices, inter alia of family strengthening, quality alternative care, family reintegration, transition from alternative care into independent living and deinstitutionalisation processes”; “Legislation and policies and how they are designed to protect children’s rights”; “Effective models or approaches to address root causes and drivers of separation and placement in alternative care”; “Effective models and approaches to address the over-representation of particular groups […] including children with disabilities [and] indigenous children”; “Recommendations for change where policies and practices have not been successful”; and other areas of interest.
- Children and youths’ lived experiences in alternative care.
To learn more about the key objectives and scope of the DGD, you can find documentation on the committee website.
How can children get involved?
Children may record video, audio, or digital copies of drawings. Please send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Changemakers for Children is also hosting a questionnaire for kids, and is accepting submissions until May 30th.
Be sure to send all submissions to email@example.com by June 14, 2021.
And follow the Day of General Discussion: “Children’s Rights and Alternative Care” on September 16-17, 2021.
Orphan Myth Campaign Featured Celebrities, Raised Alternative Care Awareness
Who is giving alternative orphan care a spotlight?
Orphan Myth with their “100% participation campaign.” It ran March 25 through April 8, 2021. Stories from celebrities and influencers passionate about orphans, the foster care system, child trafficking, and related issues were featured on People, Variety, Forbes, and a number of podcasts. They were promoting one big idea: getting 100% of children into a safe and loving family. Find some interesting media resources to share here.
The purpose of the campaign was to “increase public awareness” of the need for family-based solutions for children separated from their families, and to gather resources for partner organizations working on solutions worldwide.
Why the name “Orphan Myth”?
Orphan Myth is trying to correct misconceptions about orphans and alternative care, including:
- Children in orphanages have no parents or family. (An estimated 80% of children in orphanages do.)
- These problems are not solvable.
What solutions are available?
Some of the solutions proposed by Orphan Myth are: reunification of children with their parents; placement of children within new families; and preservation of families with children who are at-risk of separation. While these solutions may sound simple at a glance, working out the details is anything but.
Is Oak Life affiliated?
While Oak Life did not partner with Orphan Myth this year, we are excited to see how alternative care practices are evolving and more people are getting involved in finding better solutions to orphan care. At our training school, we teach students to become trauma-aware parents who can create a family atmosphere and offer children a loving home.
If you know someone who may be interested in the field, please refer them to our School of Orphan Care, which will prepare them for international work with at-risk or abandoned children.