Why family set-up is the best place for any child

Bishop Amos Lewa [right] listens to the leader of the Hindu Council of Kenya, Coast Interfaith Council, Narottam Khataw at Jaffery in Mombasa. June 11, 2017.  [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

Recently, concerns have been expressed by clerics about closing Charitable Children´s Institutions (CCIs). Given the rising number of Covid-19-related deaths of parents and caregivers, our faith leaders are right to be concerned about the fate of these children.

However, providing the best care for children takes a gradual process of transitioning them from CCIs to loving families.

In 2017, the government issued a moratorium on the registration of new CCIs, signalling a move away from such institutions. Instead, it is prioritising family preparation for gradual and safe reintegration of children currently living in CCIs into their families or placement in alternative family care options such as adoption, kinship care, or foster families.

Evidence shows long-term negative impact of institutionalising children. Majority of children in institutions have a living parent, many of whom want to care for their children if they had the necessary resources.

According to data collected by the National Council for Children Services (NCCS) and the Department of Children Services (DCS) in June 2020, at least 29,006 children were in childcare institutions.

There is concern about the fate of some children in residential care centres. [Courtesy]

Last year, when the government directed the closure of institutions to curb the spread of Covid-19, at least 13,000 children had families to go home to. Since 2019, the NCCS and the DCS have been working with organisations such as Unicef and Changing the Way We Care (CTWWC) to develop a national strategy for care reform, which will be finalised soon.

The strategy will provide a plan for gradual phase-out of children’s homes. CTWWC, an initiative funded by USAID, GHR Foundation, and MacArthur Foundation, is currently being implemented in Kisumu, Nyamira, Kilifi and Siaya.

There is concern about the fate of some children in residential care centres because it is unsafe for them to live with their families. In the unfortunate situation in which a child has been hurt at home, there are several alternative family care options such as kinship care, foster care, Kafalah, and adoption to provide a safe and nurturing family for the child.

For instance, four CCIs in Kilifi are currently transitioning into support centres for families after their children are reintegrated. Communities of faith throughout Kenya also play a critical role in children’s care, in upraising and helping families. When faith-based organisations offer support to families, fewer children are neglected, abandoned.

-Bishop Lewa shared these thoughts with Bishop Jeremiah Kessekwah, Sheikh Zienudin Ali, and Reverend Laurent Mutisya.