In many countries, children growing up in orphanages is still the norm. We're committed to training orphanage staff to become family placement workers, whereby they are able to move children out of the orphanage and into local foster families.
In Thailand, government facilities called Child and Family Shelters play an important role in the care of vulnerable children. The Shelters act as ‘gatekeepers’ – the screening process which decides whether a child needs to be taken into care and which care option is most suitable for them. As the first point of contact between government care professionals and the children, the Shelters offer a vital service to children in their most vulnerable moment.
There are 76 Child and Family Shelters located across Thailand. Staff at the Shelters play an important role in deciding the best method of care for a child moving forwards, liaising with all the key stakeholders to give the children the best care moving forwards.
Unfortunately, the options that Shelters offer for children are limited. Currently, there are few alternative care options for children so staff often refer children to the nearest orphanage as a default. This puts a major strain on orphanages, as well as not always being in the best interest of the child.
Last year, we identified these Shelters as a key opportunity to further influence child welfare in Thailand, and play an important role in transitioning the system to place foster care at its heart. While continuing to train orphanages, we began exploring how best to work alongside the Shelters to enable fewer children to enter into orphanages in the first place.
If foster care is seen as a positive and viable alternative to institutions, then fewer children would have to experience the dangers and challenges of entering an orphanage. So in the last few months we've begun training staff at the Shelters in how to conduct foster care assessments.
"Sometimes we get cases of children to our shelter, and we will be able to screen the case and see if they have someone who is able to take care of them. Perhaps the parents are in prison, or they might have passed away. If our social worker comes across a case like this, they will be able to place these children in foster care. If we can care for these children in foster families, then the children will be able to develop and be a valued part of society."
Mrs Rachaya Hantrakul, Head of the Child and Family Shelter in Chiang Mai.
Shelters provide a vital service for families and children in moments when they're desperate for support, so we're proud to work alongside them. Thanks to your incredible support, we are able to provide ongoing training and support to these Shelters to ensure more children than ever are placed into loving families, where they can be loved and nurtured.