The best environment in which to raise a child is in a family. Tragically, poverty, disability and natural disasters have driven millions of children out of family care. While reliable data is limited, estimates suggest more than 5.4 million children currently live in residential care, often referred to as “orphanages.” Children raised in residential care can suffer harmful long-term consequences to their health and development and are more likely than their peers to struggle with finding housing, employment or becoming victims of exploitation. Well-meaning people donate millions of dollars to residential care every year, not knowing that 80-90% of these children have a living parent and are not orphans at all. Catholic Relief Services, Maestral International and their partners are changing the way society cares for children. Changing the Way We Care℠: 1) Helps children remain with, or return to, safe and nurturing families; 2) Directs - or redirects – resources to strengthen families and advocates for policies to support and strengthen families; and 3) Works with governments to strengthen systems that strengthen families.
Catholic Relief Serviceswebsite: https://www.crs.org/
Charity, fund, non-governmental organization, religious institution, school, or other entity
CTWWC reprioritized activities to focus at the forefront on protecting children and strengthening families – both in terms of mitigating the risks of COVID-19 and ensuring that countries build stronger and more resilient protection and care systems in the future. CTWWC quickly pivoted and activated to redesign to virtual case management, implementing guidance and tools in Kenya, Guatemala, Moldova, Haiti and India and countless other countries, who picked up from CTWWC’s lead. CTWWC joined with other actors such as national governments, UNICEF and other NGOs to improve coordination around child protection and care during the pandemic, focusing on rapid, coordinated interventions to understand the situation through rapid data collection, prevent family separation, monitoring and assisting vulnerable families, retraining social workers and others, key messages for various actors including government, residential care providers, families and children. As the pandemic continues, CTWWC is well positioned with data on the situation of children at risk of separation and those who are either still living in residential facilities or recently returned to family, allowing CTWWC to continue to adapt tools, approaches and focus on the greatest need.
Racial and Ethnic Injustice Response
The “Orphan Industry” describes the phenomena associated with running orphanages and recruiting children or worse, trafficking children, to fill them, for the purpose of bringing in Western or global north volunteers, missionaries and tourists and their donations—most often white and with racial, ethnic and socioeconomic biases that they know how to care for children better; this is considered a new form of colonialism and institutional racism. CTWWC raises awareness on these complexities with faith-based and secular actors in the global north in an effort to redirect their energy and resources towards universal family care. In child protection and care, racial, ethnic and economic injustice and inequality is seen in the disparities around access to services, whether those that help families stay together and stay strong or those intended to support youth leaving care, who face the stigma of having grown up in residential care, foster care or otherwise without their own family—CTWWC aims to understand and improve service availability, access and quality. One of the most important aspects of social work practice is addressing injustice through participation—CTWWC empowers children, youth, young people leaving care, parents and other care givers and community members to play an active role in decision-making and in aspects of the initiative itself.