Catholic church supports bid to phase out children homes

The Sunday Standard [Nairobi Kenya]

April 21, 2024

By Jacinta Mutura

The Catholic church has joined the list of stakeholders supporting the plan to phase out Charitable Children’s Institutions (CCIs) and transition children to a family-based and community care.

The outgoing chairperson of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) Archbishop Martin Kivuva said the Catholic church embraced the new law under the National Care Reform Strategy in Kenya after overwhelming scientific evidence showed that institutions are not good for children’s growth.

Research shows that children who grow up in such homes are disadvantaged because they don’t get the kind of family love and care they need at their young age. For one reason or another, they find themselves in a place that is not exactly family,” said the archbishop.

The government-led National Care Reform Strategy for Children in Kenya seeks to phase out all children homes in a 10-year plan that runs from 2022-2032.

The idea is remove more than 45, 000 vulnerable children and orphans from the more than 850 CCIs commonly known as children’s homes and orphanages, and reunite them with their families and communities before the 2032 deadline.

“The church welcomes and embraces this idea because many institutions do not provide proper environment for a child to thrive unlike in a family set-up,” said the Archbishop Kivuva.

“So many children have fallen prey to abuse and trafficking in these institutions. The Catholic church is embracing this initiative,” he added.

The Mombasa Archbishop announced that the church-run children institutions will only be hosting children for a short period of time for emergency and custodial care issues particularly for children who are in conflict with the law.

“The children are placed there to protect them but once the court cases are sorted out, it is the responsibility of the government and the church to ensure they are placed with relatives who accept them or placed in alternative care through the children department,” he said.

The Catholic church owns and runs hundreds of  children institutions which have been a refuge for destitute children in the communities with Kivuva noting that almost every parish and dioceses countrywide have a number of them.

Whereas the archbishop agreed to the need for more sensitisation to prepare the families and communities to receive the children, he said in African traditions, it takes a village to raise a child and children belong to the communities.

“Traditionally, even when children lost their parents, the uncles and aunties embraced them took over their responsibilities,” he said.

“This also offers the opportunity for the families that have no children to adopt a child or more and accept that God has given them children although not the natural way,” he added.

Kivuva emphasized that it is a collective responsibility to take care of children in the communities particularly the vulnerable ones.

The care reform strategy which is being spearheaded by the National Council for Children’s Services (NCCS) emanates from the belief that all children belong in a family backed by overwhelming scientific evidence that children under institutional care suffer severe and sometimes irreversible developmental setbacks as opposed to those raised in families and communities.

The Archbishop was optimistic that the National Care Reform Strategy will also sort out the challenge of street children.

“These people end up in the streets because we lack the culture of taking care of another. I believe this is doable and it will take a while but it is the best interest of the children,” he said.

Further, Kivuva regretted that some founders have abused the essence of children homes and instead use them to fundraise for personal gain.

“Some are briefcase children homes. Others take the children from the streets, take photos of them and use them to raise funds yet the money doesn’t go to the children,” he said.

According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other studies done globally, at least eight out of ten of these children have biological and extended families and, with appropriate support, their families could look after them.