- This programme comes in as another care option through which children without parental care will be supported to ensure they realize their full rights through the generous hearts of emaSwati.
Mbabane: The SOS Children’s Village in collaboration with the Deputy Prime Minister’s office is living up to its promises of providing needs of children without parental care.
In this regard the duo has officially launched the Foster Care Programme in the Kingdom of Eswatini which aims at ensuring effective implementation of the United Nations (UN) Guidelines on Alternative Care and the Eswatini Guidelines on Alternative Care for children (2009).
Foster care can be defined as the temporary placement of a child who is in the need of care and protection. The child is placed in the care of suitable person who is not the parent or guardian of the child. It involves bringing a child into one’s home to care for and nurture, as the State Certified Caregiver, using the domestic environment of a family other than the children’s own family.
This programme comes in as another care option through which children without parental care will be supported to ensure they realize their full rights through the generous hearts of EmaSwati.
In his remarks Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku, who was represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Senator Thulisile Dladla said from the onset mention that the country has recognized the need to strengthen its overall alternative care settings for supporting vulnerable children in the country.
Masuku said these alternative care settings are places of safety where children who are in need of care, support, and are without parental care are placed through the department of social welfare.
Masuku highlighted that, traditional childcare arrangements have largely broken down, over time and that basic needs for survival of orphans and vulnerable children are frequently not met.
HIV/AIDS, together with social problems such as poverty and substance abuse, are also contributing to the abandonment, neglect and abuse of children to name but a few, hence the need to ensure the availability of places of safety for children in the country.
Masuku said Eswatini has a number of settings of such places of safety. These amongst other include the residential child care facilities (RCCF’s traditionally known as orphanages).
Eswatini currently has forty (40) of these RCCF’s that are distributed across the country and accommodate around two thousand three hundred (2 300) vulnerable children. One of these RFFC’s is operated by government through the social welfare department whilst the rest are operated by none state actors.
The other settings include assisted child headed households, kinship care where vulnerable children live with the traditional extended families, halfway houses which are designed for the short stay for children while their matters are addressed through the court or some other arrangements, adoptions and foster care where the children live with foster parents/families who are not biologically related to the children and are placed by authorized social welfare officers from the department of social welfare.
The DPM said government has recognized the need to strengthen its foster care program through the department of social welfare, whereby families from around the country who will have a desire to foster such children into their families can be given the opportunity to do so on an official basis.
Subsequently, it is envisaged that the office through its department of social welfare will receive applications from prospective foster families and be in a better position to have a data base of such families to allow for the placement of children.
In addition, all such families will be vetted first by the department before their enrolment into the data base of families in the country who will be granted the authority to foster children.
Masuku said Eswatini is strengthening its alternative care settings for the placement of vulnerable children as part of its commitment with the international, regional and local legislative instruments that support the welfare of children.
According SOS National Director Dr Loretta Mkhonta, the SOS children’s village is raising 254 children without parental care in the Mbabane, Nhlangano and Siteki Villages. In addition, the organization is supporting 435 families and 1 481 children through its Family Strengthening Programme in 13 Communities in the country.
Interestingly, the SOS children’s village Eswatini is the lead NGO in the provision of alternative care for children, having 333 years of presence in Eswatini.
Mkhonta said for children without parental support COVID-19 has been double trauma, as not going to school meant lack of much needed connections with other children and their teachers who often serve as adult role models in their lives. “Most likely they have also lacked food support,” she said.