Two members of our Family-Based Care (FBC) team travelled to Kathmandu, Nepal to attend the BICON conference on alternative care for children on 6 and 7 September. The bi-annual conference brings together NGOs, government stakeholders and other working to provide families for children who would otherwise grow up in insitutionalised care.
In 2019, the UN General Assembly in New York adopted a Resolution on the Rights of The Child where all 193 member states agreed that orphanages harm children and, recognizing that the vast majority of children in orphanages have living family, all children should be reunited with or supported to remain with their families. India already has guidelines in place to support this transition in the best interests of each individual child.
In support of this, our FBC team was established in 2019 to reintegrate as many children living in our care back with their biological families. Where this is not an option we are developing alternatives including adoption and foster care. The team also helps and supports those leaving care after 18 to transition back into their communities.
Our team was among 200 people from 20 countries across Asia who came together to share their experiences. Hosted by Better Care Network, Family for Every Child, LUMOS, Forget Me Not, Hope & Homes for Children, Save the Children, SOS Children’s Villages and Udayan Care there were also 30 care-leavers attending to share their own personal experiences of growing up in the care system.
Despite everyone’s best intentions, children who grow up in institutions lack many developmental milestones that can only be reached with the support of a family. Panel discussions ranged from family strengthening, adoption and foster care to disability and psychological support with every panel including at least one care-leaver. Throughout the conference we were reminded that care-leavers were sharing ‘Our story, our truth, our evidence’ and we truly appreciated their openness and courage in sharing their experiences. Their insights highlighted the urgent need to provide better systems and wider options, focusing on the family for those in need of care and protection.
Delegates included those who have been working in this area for decades and others seeking to learn more. While we were able to hear successes and ideas we can adopt it was also clear that the transition to alternative care will take time, for example, although foster care has been implemented in India there are still less than 400 children living with foster carers in the entire country.
We definitely came away with a renewed commitment to working in the best interests of our children and understanding more about our own care-leavers experiences to improve the care we currently provide to our children while continuing to seek family-based alternatives.