By Funmi Ajumobi

Child Rights advocates want orphanages to transit from Institutional-Based-Care system to Family- Based-Care system, saying the latter is a more sustainable intervention in raising orphans and vulnerable children.

This advocacy was made at a workshop, tagged, ‘Collaborate+ Lagos’, with the theme, ‘Encouraging Family-Based-Care as a More Sustainable Intervention in Raising Orphans and Vulnerable Children’.

Speaking at the workshop held at the youth hall of the Fountain of Life Church, Ilupeju, Lagos, wife of the Lagos State Governor, Mrs Ibironke Sanwo-Olu, said the state government was fully aware of the numerous challenges confronting vulnerable children, saying the state government has launched the Social Welfare Integrated Programme Initiative (SWIPI) to improve the quality and value of care to the less privileged in the society.

Represented by Mrs Nkem Sofela, a member of the Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials, Mrs Sanwo-Olu said the initiative supports orphanages, elderly care and other non-governmental organisations in addressing challenges in the area of infrastructure, medical, education and training.

She also said SWIP will advocate for structure and appropriate policy that should be put in place so that registered orphanages and elderly care homes adhere to global best practices.
The Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Youths and Social Development, Dr Aina Olugbenga, said the ministry had launched the guidelines for alternative care for vulnerable children in Lagos, adding that the state government had registered over 50 orphanage homes.

Represented by Mr Ibhafidon Akintola, a Deputy Director in the ministry, Olugbenga said Non-Governmental Organisations are encouraged to collaborate and partner government in assisting vulnerable children, especially those with special needs.

The Senior Consultant, Child Reintegration Centre, Sierra Leone, Mr David Musa, said institutionalised children were believed to be deprived of good simulation, direct affection and attention of a real parent. He added that they also lack a sense of identity and belonging because of their isolation from their communities.

Mr Emmanuel Nabieu, Director of Mission, Help Children Worldwide, in his presentation, said it was more expensive to take care of children in institutions than in families. He added that it is only in the families that children can grow up and thrive and not in orphanages.
“Home is where we belong because it is where children can be given access to their culture, languages, their norms and traditions and everything that they need to thrive as adult”, Nabieu said.

“Orphanage institutions can give tangible benefits like education, food, health care, and access to other opportunities, but it is only in the family that they can get intangible which they need like love and connections they need to thrive.

“Children belong in families and that is where they can thrive. It is not institutions where they live. It is home and that home is family”.

Coming from the experience of growing up in orphanage institution, he said he lived in trauma in an institution, separated from his family, and though given all the resources but he wanted to belong to his family just like any other children who had lived in institutions.
“Children can only have what they truly deserve in their family. Don’t get them separated”, he added

Also speaking, Dr Gabriel Oyediji, President, Association of Orphanages and Homes Operators in Nigeria, ASOHON, said there had been a global drive for alternative care options and de-institutionalization of social homes, including orphanages across the globe.
He said institutional care has negative effects on children raised within the walls of social care homes because they don’t benefit from the environment which enables them to develop other potentials.

“Institutional care deprived children in orphanages the opportunities to learn life skills”, Oyediji said.
“They might not know how to cook, sew, handle money, use public transport on their own or relate with people”.

Earlier in her welcome address, the convener of the programme, Mrs Ebunoluwa Idowu, founder, Divine Heritage Orphanage, said the aim of the programme was to give hope to vulnerable children, so that they could live their dreams. She said without strong and united families, the stability and foundation of the society would be weak.
“Institutional care harms a child’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. The best place for a child to grow is within a family unit,” she added.

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