SOS Children’s Villages in Sri Lanka is an organization that provides alternative care for children who have lost parental care in Sri Lanka. At SOS Children’s Villages they grow up in the loving care of a mother in a stable family environment, and are supported until they become independent young adults.
We have been serving in Sri Lanka for over 36 years with 6 Children’s Villages in Piliyandala, Galle, Nuwara-Eliya, Anuradhapura, Monaragala and Jaffna serving more than 41,000 children.
During the past 36 years, SOS Children’s Villages Sri Lanka was mainly funded by international individual donors and other philanthropists, mostly living in Europe. Due to the fact that Sri Lanka is now considered as one of the middle income countries in Asia, the umbrella organization has implemented a gradual subsidy reduction from SOS Children’s Villages in Sri Lanka and started to channel more international subsidies to the poorer countries in Asia and in other continents.
Over 14,000 children in Sri Lanka are currently living in over 400 child care institutions, such as childrens homes and rehabilitation centres, in less than ideal conditions. Sadly, at least 70% of children in these care institutions have one or both parents, and have been separated from their families due to reasons such as poverty, family dysfunction and abuse. Which means that with the right intervention at the right time, it is possible to prevent them from losing family care. Unfortunately though, there is no proper mechanism currently in Sri Lanka to prevent children from being placed in institutions unnecessarily or to reintegrate those already in institutional care back into their families, by strengthening the families and communities.
"Local Process Initiative" – under its advocacy initiative "Never Give Up on a Child", we started a new programme early this year in collaboration with relevant government authorities, to address the above issue.
The purpose – to learn the ground realities related to children losing family care, and identify the causes and solutions at the local level. Because ground realities are often lost in the national level laws, policies and action plans.
Main target group – this is a long-term process involving mainly field-level government officers who work at the community level with children and families. These officers are the first point of contact for vulnerable families and children and deal with their issues on a daily basis, and therefore are aware of the true ground issues related to family separation and institutionalization of children. But children in care institutions, their caregivers as well as community members are also consulted in this process.
The pilot – we started the above process in 7 selected DSD locations covering 6 provinces, where our officers engage with 10-15 field officers in each location on a regular basis and have various discussions with them to identify priority issues and potential solutions at the ground level related to the institutionalization of children.
The DiAC Conference
As a milestone of the above initiative, we are going to organize the conference in December this year, under the patronage of the Parliamentary Caucus on Children and the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Women and Gender. It is the first time such a conference on this subject is being organized in Sri Lanka and we are confident that this would prove to be a landmark initiative resulting in the first step towards a State mechanism to prevent the institutionalization of children, ensuring that all children in Sri Lanka grow up in a loving family.
Theme – Deinstitutionalization and Alternative Care (DiAC) of Children, with a focus on preventing family separation and the institutionalization of children.
Expected Outcomes – we intend to:
Date: 4th and 5th of December 2017
Venue: Grand Oriental Hotel, Colombo
Participants: about 250 participants are expected, including government field officers who are taking part in the above process, parliamentarians and other policy makers, Civil Society Organizations, academics, practitioners, corporates, diplomatic missions, media, youth who have left care institutions ("care leavers", caregivers and community members.
In July 2017, we launched another campaign called "18+: Building Support Systems for Youth Leaving Care", to address issues of children and youth compelled by law to leave care homes upon turning 18 years. We had a similar event where such "care leavers" themselves spoke out in front of policy makers, media and civil society about their life experience. As a result,
The Local Process will continue after the conference into its second phase where we believe that it will be replicated in other locations in the country as well, with more interventions at the community level through a public-private partnership.
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