From Sihanoukville, Cambodia to Makululu Compound in Zambia, we are seeing children reunited with their families. These communities, recovering from issues like conflict or the impact of HIV/AIDS, are getting stronger day-by-day.

One fact is central to our work in these communities: Most children living in orphanages have at least one living parent. In Zambia, more than 15% of children under age 15 do not live with their parents. Yet, nearly two thirds of these children have two living parents.

Why were these children separated from their parents? The factors are numerous and complex, ranging from poverty to conflict to addiction. Some of these factors can be prevented, keeping children in families. Some of these problems can be repaired, putting children back in families or family-like environments. In Cambodia, Uganda and Zambia, where we work, we are already seeing the benefits of family care.

The child protection field is diverse, ranging from orphanages to organisations preventing child separation. Regardless of differing philosophies, we are all working toward the common goal of keeping children safe and healthy. We have all worked tirelessly and made sacrifices in the interest of protecting children. However, the difficult question of how to transition from institutional care to family oriented care is asked in a grey area. Many organisations are left with limited options, lacking the support they need to carry out family reintegration.

Most in the child protection sector agree children should always be in families when possible, and our goal is to make this an option available more often, in more places. We acknowledge transformation rarely takes place overnight—change often comes incrementally, and the pace of change varies. Organisations that work with orphanages and institutions are crucial to the wellbeing of children, and we hope to meet them where they are, providing resources that facilitate the shift toward community-based models, foster care services and eventually, family care.

GHR envisions a world where all children—especially those at risk of losing or without parental care—are living in a stable, positive, long-term family or family-like environment. By partnering with global advocacy platforms, government organisations and non-profits in key countries that work directly with families, GHR’s Children in Families initiative is able to:

  • Support and care for children without families using community-based models
  • Prevent family separation with programs that link families to support systems
  • Change national systems through pro-family alliances and policies
  • Seek and share research-based evidence that drives new innovative solutions

In Cambodia, we’re partnering with Children in Families Cambodia to move children from orphanages into long-term foster, foster-adopt and kinship care families by building a platform of alternative care services. Since our partnership began last year, CIF Cambodia has placed 20 children in kinship care and eight in long-term foster homes; 20 more families have undergone preparation to become foster families.

In Zambia, we’re partnering with Catholic Medical Mission Board to prevent family separation by forming a savings group. Each member contributes 50 cents per week to provide emergency grants and small business loans for members, helping families meet basic needs and keep their children at home.

In 2015, GHR invested nearly $3 million in Children in Families solutions around the world. We invest so heavily in families because we have seen the impact family care can have on the development of children and the strength of communities. This approach to child protection is catching on—alliances of organisations dedicated to family care, like Better Care Network and Family for Every Child, are advocating for this model and sharing resources with like-minded organisations around the world.

We recognise this conversation is complex, and individuals and organisations working within institutional care are a critical part of the solution. Only by listening and learning from a variety of viewpoints can we work together toward new, innovative solutions that benefit children everywhere. If this approach resonates with you, click here to contact us.  We’re eager to support the efforts of our philanthropic peers and explore potential collaboration.