Need to sustain the momentum in care reform

Children should experience safety and nurture for their harmonious growth, development of their personalities, and in rising to their full potential.

Photo credit: Photo | Pool

Children are the foundation for future generations. They should experience safety and nurture for their harmonious growth, development of their personalities and in rising to their full potential.

This is possible when they grow up in a family, which provides an atmosphere of safety, love and nurturing.

Article 7 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child says the child shall, as far as possible, have the right to know and be cared for by their parents.

The Constitution recognises the family as a fundamental unit of society and the necessary basis for social order with the responsibility of childcare on the child’s biological family.

Beyond family, the government and other stakeholders have the responsibility to provide an enabling environment for children to thrive in safe and nurturing families.

In Kenya, families and children experience separation due to poverty, hunger, disability, HIV/Aids, displacement, abuse, neglect and abandonment. In 2020, more than 45,000 children lived in care institutions, or orphanages—even though the majority were not orphaned.

Research shows young children in such institutions are more likely to suffer poor health, delayed attainment of developmental milestones, anxiety and mental health issues and emotional attachment disorders.

Globally, 80 per cent of such children have a living parent with whom they can live, and many others have family members who can provide for them if supported.

Kenya is implementing the National Care Reform Strategy 2022 to 2032, anchored on the Children Act, 2022, to ensure that all children grow up in safe and nurturing families.

It focuses on family strengthening, strengthening alternative family and community-based care options for children and foresees helping children care institutions take up a role of providing community support services rather than care that separates children.

The Strategy requires active collaboration for implementation to achieve desired outcomes for childcare. Against this backdrop, the National Council for Children’s Services, Changing the Way We Care, Unicef, Lumos, Legatum, Stahili Foundation, Hope and Homes, people with lived experience such as care leavers, caregivers, people with disability, other state and non-state actors came together in September for the first ever National Care Reform Stakeholder’s Reflection and Learning Forum. Participants agreed on systematic, collaborative and deliberate efforts, regular reflections and learning on achievements, lessons and challenges and to effectively implement care reform in Kenya.

There is need for unwavering commitment by stakeholders. For instance, since 2018, Changing the Way We Care has focused on building and strengthening family-focused care systems in Kisumu, Nyamira, Kilifi, Siaya and Mombasa. This is being scaled up across Kenya. Together, we are changing the way we care for children so that they all thrive in safe and nurturing families supported by systems that promote family care.

- Ms Karama is the deputy director of Changing the Way We Care, a partnership of Catholic Relief Services and Maestral International. [email protected].