About 30 percent of children living in residential cares centres throughout the country are to be sent back to live with their relatives.
Social Affairs Minister Vong Soth said that reducing the number of children living in residential cares centres or orphanages does not mean the ministry is abandoning them, but is investing in reuniting them with their family if they have one.
He made the comments during a meeting on Thursday with Karin Hulshof, Unicef regional director for East Asia and the Pacific.
“Before the project started, the ministry investigated and worked to reduce the number of children in centres, for children who had at least one parent still alive. The parents still may need help in raising them,” he said.
Mr Soth said the reduction does not mean all centres will be disbanded. He said centres are necessary in society, but as a principle, living in an orphanage should be the last resort for a child if they are not actually orphaned.
“We think this situation is consistent with what is happening in the country. In the past, there were many orphans in need of care, but right now there are much fewer orphans,” he said.
Mr Soth said the ministry reduced aid to residential cares centres because they do not want to see more children sent there to live, but he said his ministry does not plan to stop providing support.
Ms Hulshof supported the project, saying children should live with their family if able to.
“I would like to thank the minister for reducing the number of children in centres by 30 percent so that they can live with their families. However, we need to prepare the family to be sure they are really ready to care for the child,” she said.
She added the ministry should not impose a child’s return to his or her family if they were unable to care for them appropriately.
According to a report from the Social Affairs Ministry in April last year, there were 16,579 children living in 406 residential care facilities nationwide. The ministry had selected four provinces including Battambang, Siem Reap, Kandal, and Preah Sihanouk, as well as Phnom Penh, to test the reintegration programme.