Friday, July 15, 2016

Sena’s* story

By Patricia Chourio

Sena plays with her toy
© UNICEF Cambodia/2016/Patricia Chourio

Sena is an energetic three year old. She lives with her long term foster father Mr. Chan Inn, his wife and their two biological children. The family lives in a beautiful home in Siem Reap district, in Siem Reap province.

Sena wakes up every day at 6:30am. She loves to eat apples for breakfast and enjoys playing with her siblings before they go to school. She takes a few naps throughout the day but most of the time she spends playing with her foster parents.

When Sena was only a few days old, her biological mother abandoned her at a Health Centre. A woman from the community took her in temporarily, but when she became sick just a few days later, she brought her to Angkor Hospital for Children. The woman, Sena’s informal foster carer, spent one night at Angkor Hospital for Children, but then decided she could not continue to look after Sena and left her there. Sena was abandoned for a second time in just a few short days of her life. Mr Sokchea, Angkor Hospital for Children Social Worker Team Leader, said “We find many cases where children are handed over to other families within their community, often so the biological parents can go to work in Thailand or elsewhere. It is a risk for these children as there is no formal child protection system in place; these children face abandonment multiple times, especially when times are hard or when the harvest fails.”

In the following days Sena’s condition worsened and the Angkor Hospital for Children medical team decided to perform an emergency surgery to remove a piece of her intestine which seemed to be causing the issues. The surgery left a scar on the left side of her stomach. The social work unit at Angkor Hospital for Children tried their best to again reunite Sena with her mother when she had recovered from the surgery but they were not successful. With the help of UNICEF’s Siem Reap partner organization, Kaliyan Mith, they were able to find a temporary foster family for Sena when she was about one month old. 

At first, Mr. Inn and his wife would visit Sena in hospital while she was recovering from the surgery. They would watch movies with her and play with her - anything that could help distract her from her difficult situation. After a few weeks, once Sena had recovered, the Inn’s took her home. “I felt so sad to see her in that situation, I felt the need to help” says Mr. Inn. While Kaliyan Mith worked tirelessly with the biological family, it was soon realised that reunification would not be possible, so the option for long term foster care was opened. An interesting procedure followed by Kaliyan Mith while transferring from temporary to long term foster care includes giving the temporary carer a say in the final selection of long term foster carers. This is because the temporary carers have become the experts on the specific care needs for the child. Mr. Inn and his family were not happy with any of the long term applicants, and as they had grown more and more attached to Sena, and knew they could provide the best possible care for her, they decided to apply to be long term carers themselves. As long term foster parents, they don’t receive any financial support from Kaliyan Mith. However, this did not deter them, and they are financially able to take care of Sena. They continue to receive counselling and ongoing trainings from Kaliyan Mith, and health services for Sena from Angkor Hospital for Children as needed.

It’s been almost three years since Sena arrived in the Inn’s household. She is now healthy and playful. The Inn’s even included her in their family book, an important document which lists the names of all family members, and they have all of her relevant documents, including birth certificate.

The Inn’s are a happy family. Mr. Inn is his sixties and his wife in her late fifties. They both plan ahead and save money to make sure their children are taken care of in the future. They own a grocery store and a restaurant. Some days, Mr. Inn works as a taxi driver to earn extra income. Their main goal is to ensure their children’s wellbeing. “I want Sena to go to school, I know she has a bright future ahead” says Mrs. Inn.

*Name changed to protect identity

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