Reports of the county governments of Mombasa and Uasin Gishu arresting streets children to 'clean' or 'clear' their metropolises are shocking.
The Uasin Gishu governor went further and took the children to Busia, Kakamega and Bungoma in Western region, "where they had come from" obviously based on their ethnicity. Hopefully, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, whose stated mission is to develop and sustain processes that alleviate all forms of ethnic discrimination and promote diversity through knowledge creation, capacity building, advocacy and pertinent policy development, will intervene on behalf of the innocent children banished from Uasin Gishu by its intolerant local government.
The actions of the two counties bring to the fore the way those in power treat and manage children abandoned by their parents. Their attitude towards children in need of public care (social care) shows a lack of compassion and interest to do their best to care for these children. It has been said that the rationale behind taking the children to Western region was to exclude them from "benefiting" from being placed in the planned Sh13 Million "rehabilitation" centre for Uasin Gishu children. Other rehabilitation centres are reportedly being constructed in places like Kisii and Nairobi.
The placing of children in the care of foster carers has many merits, the main one being that the child is not growing up in a dormitory under the care of stern-faced workers, strange to him or her but is provided with the opportunity to grow up in a family under the care of adults he will stay with and become familiar to for as long as is prescribed in the county government care plan for him or court Care Order.
In the family there will be other children who speak the language he understands and share his culture, and who will be his playmates, almost like his siblings. They will all attend the same schools. The child is able to enjoy a social life as opposed to a dull existence in a largely impersonal existence in a cold dormitory-like building.
Our governors and children services technocrats need to be aware that placing children in institutions irrespective of the name it is baptised will deny the child the right to grow in a family, breaching their rights. It will definitely impair them cognitively, psychologically and physically. Babies placed in cots will most likely lie in that state until they are too tired and start to scream. This will deform their tender developing muscles.
Another merit of foster care as opposed to care in a children's institution is that the child's foster carers will be competent individuals duly vetted, trained, and paid and supported by the county children's department. This kind of workforce is a good investment for the taxpayer, as a reliable, sustainable capacity locally built in the counties to handle the social problem of child abuse or to protect children from harm, using local knowledge and expertise. A child placed with foster carers will also have his needs being monitored by a trained social worker who will liaise with the child's family and extended family among other services to provide to the child as stipulated in the county government's care plan for the child.
Let's hope that the appointment of Cecily Kariuki as Public Service Cabinet secretary and and Susan Mochache as Principal Secretary, will bring a sense of reform in the way social services delivery is done, first through insisting on professionalism. The CS will need a strong technical section to deal with policies, research and training, hitherto lacking in social services.
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