By Lydia Gichuki
In reforms aimed at changing the life experiences of children living in care institutions such as orphanages, safe houses, and street children the Ministry of Gender, Public Service, and Special Programmes yesterday launched a National Care Reform strategy in partnership with Child Rights organizations.
With these reforms, these children will now have the opportunity to be cared for by family units. They will be placed in homes with guardians, or foster parents, or reunited with their families after being separated from them.
The strategy is informed by research that indicates that children growing up in institutions develop slower than their peers growing up within family units.
In Kenya, there are over 45, 000 children living in institutions, 15,000 children on the streets, and over 3.5 million orphans. According to research 90 percent of children in institutions have at least one living parent.
While launching the strategy, Public Service Cabinet Secretary, Margaret Kobia, said the Children’s Bill that is currently in the Senate will also work to prioritize care that is not in institutions.
She added that if passed, the bill will give prominence to retaining children with their families or alternative family care options.
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The Children’s Bill 2021 recommends alternative care like foster parents, guardians, extended families, or Khalilah’s instead of children’s care institutions noting that they would have personalized care which is vital for children’s growth.
During the second reading of the bill in Parliament, Labour and Social Welfare committee recommended that Kenya should face out of children’s homes and adopt home care.
It argued that through the home care children are successfully integrated into the community and receive the best care as compared to children’s homes.
The lawmakers also recommended that there should be proper regulations to regulate children’s homes, charitable organizations, and state children actors such as the Child Welfare of Kenya.
While lauding the Ministry for this move, Lady Justice Teresia Matheka said the strategy is evolutionally saying although the Children’s Act provides for different avenues of care for children under different circumstances, often children end up living in institutions.
She continued to say the Justice system, more often than not, directs children who find themselves with no parental care to institutions such as children’s homes, juvenile centers or shelters but with the strategy family and community care will be an alternative.