Friday, November 17, 2017

Fostering safe and successful reintegration of children in residential care in Cambodia through training key stakeholders

By Buthdy Sem

A child’s physical, intellectual and emotional development
is better nurtured in a family environment.
©UNICEF Cambodia/2015/
Giacomo Pirozzi

Siem Reap, Cambodia, November 2017 – In order to accelerate implementation of a regional strategy to improve child care in Siem Reap province, with the target of safely returning 30 per cent of children in residential care institutions back to their families by 2018, key personnel in the province have been recently trained with support from UNICEF.


The aim is to reunite 644 children in Siem Reap province with their families and back into communities by year-end 2018 as part of a provincial operational plan launched in August 2017 to rapidly advance child protection measures.

Technical and financial support was provided to the Department of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (DoSVY) so they can raise awareness among directors of residential care institutions (RCIs) and community-based centres about essential aspects of reintegration; the principle of the best interests of the child; and elimination of harm to the child during the reintegration process.

Delegates at the specialized training event held in September 2017 in Siem Reap were given guidance on good practices in reintegration support for children and the transition of residential care institutions to community-based services.

An important component of the training was the sharing of delegates’ experiences and lessons learned during the development and implementation of reintegration procedures.

Since January 2016, 144 children in Siem Reap province have been taken out of institutional care and reunited with their families and relatives or placed in other family or community-based care through appropriate case management by DoSVY social workers and staff from the NGO Kaliyan Mith (‘good friends’ in Khmer), a UNICEF partner, member of the Partnership Programme for the Protection of Children (3PC), that offers social reintegration support, including family reintegration, school reintegration and transitional shelter for vulnerable children.

The training session was opened by DoSVY director Mr. Or Mao, followed by a presentation on the principles of the best interests of the child and harm elimination during the reintegration process.

Participants then held group discussions and shared experiences on reintegration support.

Sixty-nine people from RCIs, community-based centres, Commune Committees for Women and Children (CCWC) and Women and Children’s Consultative Committees (WCCC) took part.

Participants were particularly interested to learn more about practical implementation of the best interests of the child and harm elimination, especially in relation to access to education and livelihood support as part of the reintegration process.

The training event was highly productive; nine RCI directors confirmed their intention to move children into community-based services and 30 others said they would reunify 30 per cent of children in their care back to their families. These directors submitted reports on the reintegration process to DoSVY officials at the conclusion of the meeting.

Participants attended the specialized training on
 the reintegration of children in Residential Care Institutions
 in Cambodia. ©UNICEF Cambodia/2017/Buthdy Sem

Significant progress in child care and reintegration has been achieved in Siem Reap province. This is linked to the closure of six RCIs that were shut for varying reasons including not meeting the minimum standard of alternative care for children, reports of abuse and insufficient funds from donors. To date, a total of 107 children from the six RCIs that were closed have received case management and reintegration support services. Some of these children have been reunited with their biological parents or relatives. Others were referred for temporary placement to another residential facility that meets acceptable standards of care or placed in community-based care. These children will continue to receive follow-up visits from social workers for a period of three years in order to support their successful reintegration.

Three RCIs; Green Gecko, Cambodia House and the Life Project of Cambodia have made the successful transition to community-based care and social workers from both DoSVY and Kaliyan Mith have been conducting cases management and reintegration support for children from these RCIs.

In order to promote the efficient implementation of the provincial operational plan, DoSVY will invite representatives of RCIs and community-based centres who failed to attend the recent meeting to undergo training at a future event. DoSVY will also conduct training for RCI staff that support the reintegration of children, as well as for those that have decided to implement the transition procedure.

Decades of research indicate that living in residential care can harm children’s social, physical, intellectual and emotional development. Children placed in RCIs in their early childhood are at particular risk of being deprived of critical social and emotional development.

However, training initiatives such as this recent DoSVY-UNICEF collaboration are helping to raise awareness and build the capacity of key personnel so they can contribute more effectively to improved child protection strategies, especially reintegration.

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