Child Welfare Programs Liaison Mohamed Nabieu represented HCW at World Without Orphans' global forum in Chiang Mai, Thailand last month. WWO's mission is helping children remain in, be reunited with, or regain a healthy family, so that they can reach their God-given purpose. As a "care leaver" (someone who grew up in an orphanage) Mohamed was a featured speaker at the conference. In addition to presenting as a care leaver, Nabs was a co-presenter with Andrew Schneidler of 1MillionHome, sharing the Child Reintegration Centre's experience transitioning from an institutional model of care to a family-based model. HCW/CRC is a globally recognized leader in care reform and in how to transition to family-based care.
"Keeping families together should play a pivotal role in childcare. Family is firmly entrenched into our bloodlines and DNA, and it is through a family that secure attachment and healthy relationships are born," Mohamed told the attendees. "Poverty being the driving force for separating families, taking children and putting them into orphanages just deepens the separation by adding emotional and psychological aftermath to it. Part of God's design, families as natural systems, are meant to uphold each other through both favorable and odd seasons. With poverty and other crisis, orphanages or institutions for children should not take the lead as the only and ongoing solution."
"Families may be poor in providing the materialistic support to their children, but they are rich in providing genuine love to them. Our role as leaders is to partner with them for their success at all levels," he concluded. HCW is collaborating with WWO and other child-focused organizations to support the global movement to help children grow up in caring families, instead of institutions.
Attendees learned strategies for family reintegration and preparation of foster and adoptive families, as well as case management tools for assessing children's well-being.
You are all Christian leaders. You do the uncomfortable thing because it is right. You do the hard thing, the right thing. It is possible, and it can be done. You can move those children to loving homes, we have done it, so it can be done!
Last month, HCW’s Child Welfare Programs Liaison Mohamed Nabieu (Nabs) presented about his experience growing up in an orphanage to a special panel at the 1MILLIONHOME/Agape Family Reintegration Workshop in Nairobi, Kenya. Nabs, Ruth Wacuka and Peter Mthui (both from Kenya) shared their experiences as "care leavers," children who age out of institutional care without being placed in a family. The care leavers are on a mission to help child welfare advocates understand the impact of growing up in an institution, and encourage the the reintegration of families. The panel presentation was extremely well-received by the workshop participants, prompting many follow-up questions.
Having grown up in different countries and orphanages, the stories of Peter, Ruth and Nabs are unique, but they share many similarities. They are passionate and compelling advocates for children in institutional care, and their stories are gaining a great deal of interest among child welfare programs around the world. The trio will be presenting again at the World Without Orphans Global Forum in Chiang Mai, Thailand this October.
Helping Children Worldwide is partnering with the 1MILLIONHOME Foundation to prepare and host a week-long Family Reintegration Workshop in Sierra Leone in 2020. When 1MILLIONHOME learned that the CRC was the first Sierra Leonean orphanage to successfully complete this transition, they offered to help support the workshop so that the CRC staff can train other orphanage directors and government officials to learn how to transition their own programs to family-based care.
The care leavers had five minutes each to tell their stories, excerpted below:
The care leavers’ presentations were followed by an audience Q&A.
Nabs: “[The Child Rescue Centre] continues to support the children’s education after they leave the orphanage, but now they live with families, building bonds, trust, and relationship. [The CRC] continues to support the child. We have done something very simple. Everything stays the same, we have just changed the sleeping location of the child. Our organization is now focused on family empowerment, micro finance training, and case management. We are building the family’s dignity to care for their own child. When a family becomes empowered, they are then able to mentor other families.”
Ruth: “I recommend Singing to the Lions (A Guide to Overcoming Fear and Violence in Our Lives, by Catholic Relief Services) a 10 week program to address trauma. Living in care and exiting cause trauma. Children need one on one counseling with a therapist. So many out there are still not able to talk about their experience.
Peter: “We are good at reacting, not pro-acting. Rather than thinking about how to fix what is broken, let’s focus on the kids in institutional care now - how can we get them home and end the cycle of trauma sooner?”
Nabs closed the care leavers presentation with words of motivation and encouragement. “We must address the cause, not the symptom. We rescue these children from the crisis, but we don’t address the cause of their crisis. Then when they go back home, they’re back in the crisis. You are all Christian leaders. You do the uncomfortable thing because it is right. You do the hard thing, the right thing. It is possible, and it can be done. You can move those children to loving homes, we have done it, so it can be done!”
“We are all broken, but it is well,” Nabs concluded.
Peter, Nabs, and Ruth had the opportunity to meet with 1MILLIONHOME COO Michele Schneidler and pastor and author Francis Chan, who was also a presenter at the conference.