Ministry cracks down in orphans scandal
The Ministry of Social Affairs has decided to reintegrate more than 3,000 children in orphanages back into families after discovering the abysmal conditions of many facilities, with some having reported sexual abuse.
The announcement, which was made during the launch of the Mapping of Residential Care Facilities and Action Plan for Improving Child Care, said that 3,500 children from five priority provinces will be sent home to reduce the negative impacts they often face growing up in residential care.
“The children are now in the centers because of poverty so the centers help take care of them, help them get educated,” Social Affairs Minister Vong Soth said.
“However we checked some centers and found out that they are not fulfilling their roles and were merely created as an excuse to achieve arbitrary targets.
“This is unacceptable as some places have also reported cases of abuse, even sexual abuse.”
He explained that integrated children have show more positive development compared to those growing up in residential care centers.
Those at centers, he said, were often susceptible to various kinds of abuse and negligence, and sometimes also turn to drugs.
While the number of children at residential care institutions has been reduced, he said that more needed to be done to provide at-risk children with better accommodation.
There are currently 16,579 children living in 406 residential care facilities nationwide.
The ministry has selected Battambang, Siem Reap, Kan, Preah Sihanouk provinces as well as Phnom Penh to test the integration program.
In the four provinces and capital, there are 11,788 children across all 267 institutions, 30 percent of whom will be reintegrated into families or community-based care system in the first stage.
Many of the bogus orphanages are set to merely to attract donations from tourists and continue to operate in unsafe, unregulated environments, Reuters news agency reported yesterday.
Debora Comini, UNICEF representative in Cambodia, has expressed support for the program as four out of every five children living in residential care facilities often still have living parents.
She urged the government to pay special attention to vulnerable children in these facilities and to reunite them with their parents or relatives as Cambodia’s many residential care facilities operate with little control or supervision.
“This is concerning because children living in unregulated and uninspected institutions are more at risk of neglect as well as physical and sexual abuse, and trafficking.
“The Convention on the Rights of the Child guides the work of governments and UNICEF, and it clearly states that every child has the right to grow up in a loving family environment,” she said.
According to the Social Affair Ministry, childcare centers are meant to be service providers for all children who have been abandoned or who are unable to live with their families.
However many childcare institutions have been operating without authorization and supervision of the ministry, with 38 percent of the 406 centers nationwide not being inspected by the ministry.
Twelve percent of the centers are not registered with the government at all while 21 percent don’t have an agreement with the ministry.
According to Reuters, 17 percent of Cambodians live under the poverty line, forcing parents who are too poor to care for their children resort to sending them to orphanages.
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