Asohon And Children With Disabilities Forward Steps – Marcus Williams – ASOHON National Secretary
The situation of children deprived of parental care has been the subject of constant and serious concern expressed globally by stakeholders. This concern has caused a lot of talks around; the large number of children coming into alternative care in many countries, too often essentially due to their family’s material poverty and family disintegration, the conditions under which that care is provided, and the low priority that may be afforded to responding appropriately to these children who, lacking the primary protection normally assured by parents, are particularly vulnerable.
The reasons for which children find themselves in alternative care are wide-ranging, and addressing these diverse situations – preventively or reactively – similarly requires a panoply of measures to be in place.
The acceptance of universal Guidelines has signaled all governments’ general agreement that the ‘orientations for policy and practice’ they set out are both well-founded and desirable. Since that time, some alternative care providers have been making full use of the principles and objectives established in the Guidelines – though not widely used. Importantly, moreover, the Guidelines are by no means addressed to government shelters alone: they are to be taken into account by everyone, at every level, who is involved in some manner with issues and programmes concerning alternative care provision for children. This is where the Moving Forward steps in.
CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES AND ALTERNATIVE CARE
Children with disabilities and other special needs are often placed in alternative care unnecessarily therefore, ASOHON National Policy on persons with disabilities should among others:
Ensure policy, guidance, planning and assessment is in place
- Develop strategies and services to ensure that children with disabilities are not placed, and do not remain, in alternative care on the basis of their or their parents’ disability alone.
- Provide integrated planning and support across services including health, education, child welfare, social protection and housing to meet the needs of children with disabilities and other special needs and their families
- Ensure that children with disabilities and other special needs are not placed in institutions, and that this includes children aged 0-3 years. A range of care options appropriate to the needs of individual children should be provided as alternatives to institutions and where children cannot live at home
Provide appropriate care and support
- Require mechanisms to be in place so that the needs of children with disabilities and other special needs can be fully assessed and ensure that there is input from specialist professionals where needed
- Ensure children with disabilities have access to education (including vocational training and tertiary education), rehabilitation services, occupational therapy, health care and child welfare
- Provide support for families caring for children with disabilities and other special needs. This could include financial support, day care and respite care, education, health, community support and rehabilitation services in order that parents and he extended family can care for their children
- Provide planned, short term, temporary respite care for children with disabilities as one means to prevent placement in long-term formal care
- Provide support including financial support so that foster caregivers and caregivers in family-based care appropriately care for children with disabilities. Where appropriate, children with disabilities should continue to receive support as they move into adult life
- Ensure that attention is given to the importance of early childhood development and early intervention to ensure that the needs of children with disabilities and other special needs are met
- Require appropriate physical access to be provided within homes, residential facilities and services supporting children and their families
- Ensure that children with disabilities and other special needs are fully protected by having child protection measures in place wherever they live
- Provide appropriate care for children with disabilities in emergency settings
- Require planning, resources and support to be available to children with disabilities and other special needs when leaving care and aftercare
Promote awareness and counter stigmatization and discrimination
- Challenge and develop measures to counter discrimination and stigmatization of children with disabilities and other special needs and their families. This should include training and awareness raising for caregivers
- Promote awareness of the rights of children with disabilities and other special needs and encourage the extended family, community and civil society to provide informal support
- Collect and analyze data and undertake research to better understand the needs of children with disabilities and other special needs and to inform alternative care services
- Poverty alone should never justify the admission of a child into formal alternative care. On the contrary, it should be the trigger for providing appropriate support for the family. So, alternative care providers should follow the principle of last option before admission of children into their care.
- As a general rule, siblings should not be separated from each other in care placements unless there are compelling reasons for doing so. These reasons must always be in the best interests of any of the children concerned
- Care providers should never be motivated principally by political, religious or economic goals. Pursuing such aims can lead to, among other things, active searches (‘harvesting’) for children to take in, especially by those core residential facilities operating and getting funds on the basis of the number of children in their care.
While residential facilities are recognized as a necessary component of care provision, placements in them should only be made for positive reasons, based on an assessment of what is best for the child.
IS DIS-INTITUTIONALSATION: A WISE IDEA?
The potentially damaging and long-term impact on children placed in ‘institutions’ is now well documented. These negative outcomes are due to many factors, including the absence of a primary caregiver with whom to bond, a lack of stimulation and constructive activity, poor access to basic services, violence, and isolation from the family and the ‘outside world’. In many care systems, there are even more problems associated with institutionalization, caused when there are no attempts to achieve family reintegration, no periodic review of the suitability of (or need for) the placement, and a lack of preparation for life after leaving the facility.
As a result, many countries have already phased out institutional care for children, or are on the way to doing so. However, there are other countries where, for varied reasons, the current alternative care system consists almost entirely of ‘institutions’. Here the challenge of phasing them out is considerable. That challenge is all the greater where facilities are in the hands of private providers. A worldwide phasing out of institutions is further complicated by the fact that many stakeholders do not yet believe that a full-scale move towards de-institutionalization is justified. In a small number of cases, moreover, large facilities may manage to avoid the harmful practices and inadequacies described above. ASOHON should begin to draw up its own strategy for progressively de-institutionalising its alternative care system – rather than proposing an outright ban on institutions, ensure the set up a new institution should be critically examined within the context of the relevant strategy.
In Nigeria, we can’t at this time promote conversations around di-institutionalization as special attention has to be paid to fully include children with disabilities and other special needs in these considerations; they have generally been the last to benefit. Experience has clearly demonstrated that deinstitutionalization – if it is to be successful and protect children’s rights – is a highly complex and multi-faceted process – is Nigeria prepared for it? Since, it requires careful planning.
WAY TO GO:
- Collaborate with relevant state actors to ensure the last option is alternative care for children with disabilities
- Increased reintegration for children with disabilities via training and retraining of alternative care providers as well as support them to work with families towards achieving this.
- Set policies that favour alternative care in family settings and promote same to all stakeholders
- Discourage isolation of children with disabilities from parental communities and households
- Provide for community guided funding for families willing to care for children with disabilities
- Conduct intensive data collection, collation and analysing opportunities as well as dissemination of same to key stakeholders
- ASOHON as a matter of urgency should ensure her members follow through with ensuring that families are the best to care for children
“No water holds in a basket; so, no activity to protect children will survive in basket like democracy with no enforced policy/s that protect children” -Marcus Williams –