Helping Children Grow Up In Loving Families

by Children In Families Organization
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Helping Children Grow Up In Loving Families
Helping Children Grow Up In Loving Families
Helping Children Grow Up In Loving Families
Helping Children Grow Up In Loving Families
Helping Children Grow Up In Loving Families
Helping Children Grow Up In Loving Families
Helping Children Grow Up In Loving Families
Helping Children Grow Up In Loving Families
Helping Children Grow Up In Loving Families
Helping Children Grow Up In Loving Families
Helping Children Grow Up In Loving Families
Helping Children Grow Up In Loving Families
Helping Children Grow Up In Loving Families
Helping Children Grow Up In Loving Families
Helping Children Grow Up In Loving Families

There are many reasons for a child to become separated from family, but one of the leading ones is poverty. In Cambodia, parents in rural areas often feel that they must leave their children in the care of grandparents so that they can find better employment opportunities elsewhere. This may mean going to the city or it may even mean leaving Cambodia to try to find work in another country. Though grandparents can be excellent caregivers, being left with multiple grandchildren to care for can be a real strain for an elderly person, especially when the parents’ hope of finding better employment elsewhere does not materialize and the grandparents are left bearing the full financial responsibility. 

A few years ago a commune leader contacted CIF, asking for our support in assessing the needs of three children who were living with their grandmother. The grandma was chronically ill and struggling to provide for them. Two of the grandchildren, Sophea, age 10, and Sopheak, age 9, are brothers, and the third boy, Sopha, is their cousin. All three were left in their grandmother’s care with little to no support from their parents. CIF, in close cooperation with local authorities, conducted a child and family assessment. The need for additional support to keep this family intact was evident, so CIF enrolled them into our family preservation and family strengthening service called FOR-1 (Family of Origin as 1st Priority). 

 CIF provided a monthly stipend to cover food and education expenses for the three children, which significantly reduced the burden on the struggling grandma. A CIF case worker also provided regular visits and case management, monitoring the children’s safety, health, development, and educational progress. Social work support continued throughout the Covid 19 pandemic, with case management expanded to include awareness raising about protection from Covid 19, along with provision of hygiene supplies and masks.

 The grandmother and the three children all received training in child rights and child protection, along with positive parenting, and tips for good hygiene and sanitation. The CIF case worker recognized that, though the monthly stipend was a help to the family, more support was needed.  Working closely with the local authorities in monitoring the family’s status, CIF advocated for the family to receive a special identification card which made them eligible for monthly cash support from the government. The local authorities also constructed a proper house for the family and processed other important documents for them including birth certificates, family books etc.

A couple of years after CIF had begun to support this family, Sopha’s single father, Phorn, returned home and began to contribute to the family’s support by fishing at night. Some of the fish were used to feed the family and the rest were sold in the marketThis was a help to the family, but CIF continued to monitor the situation and began to include Phorn in family strengthening activities, building his knowledge on child rights, child protection, positive parenting etc.

Unfortunately, the grandmother passed away and it became Phorn’s sole responsibility to care for the family. The CIF staff encouraged Phorn to think about ways to improve the family’s livelihood where they lived. Phorn decided that raising cows and chickens would be something that he could do successfuly. Phorn started saving gradually and learning the techniques from others in the community who were successful in animal husbandry. CIF provided cash support of $500 to Phorn to buy and raise cows. Phorn used his own savings to build a small cattle shed and to contribute toward the purchase of cows. Phorn was able to buy one pregnant cow and one calf to raise for $572. Later, Phorn also started raising chickens beginning with three hens and later adding two more. He continues fishing at night and is preparing the area around his house for home gardening as well. 

“Without CIF’s support, I might have had to leave the community again to work outside,” Phorn said. He added, “I think of the CIF staff as a brother. He visits me every month, encourages me, and guides me to be hopeful in life, to be proactive in improving our living condition, caring well for our home and for the three children. Thank you CIF!

CIF will continue to work with the local authorities to strengthen the capacity of the family in providing care, protection and support to the children and to improve their living conditions. Working with the three children to promote life skills, personal safety, and education are key priorities of CIF’s case management. In these ways CIF will work with the children and family towards successful case closure inthe near future. 

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With officials for the adoption paperwork.
With officials for the adoption paperwork.

As we have been working on a book about Children In Families (CIF)’s founding and history, we reflect on how far CIF has come as an organization. What began in 2006 as a small operation out of Cathleen Jones’s house to stem the flow of children going into orphanages has now flourished into a medium-sized NGO that has walked alongside hundreds of families. 

In the early years, there were few trained social workers, so CIF and international partner organizations trained willing and kind people to take on the role. Now, Cambodia is producing significantly more university-qualified social workers, upscaling the quality of staff we bring onto our team. Still, we honor our field-trained staff from the early years who learned through perseverance and experience. Our staff members love our families and are committed to the well-being of hundreds of children. 

We want to thank you for helping make our work possible. Whether you started supporting CIF recently or have been a faithful donor for years, your contributions positively impact families and communities throughout Cambodia. 

In April, we ran our annual Little-By-Little Fundraiser for matching one-time donations through GlobalGiving. We brought in nearly $700 in donations. That’s enough for 70 families to receive one month of social work services! 

One child you’ve impacted recently was Meas*. As an infant, her single mother struggled and felt the only option was to place Meas in an orphanage. After a partner organization specializing in crisis pregnancy worked with her mother, it became clear to all parties that the best option for Meas was a foster family with the intent of domestic adoption. CIF found her an excellent fit with a childless couple who adore children and want to help those in need. They immediately fell in love with one another. Even the grandparents adore her and refer to Meas as their “beloved.” 

Her biological mother selflessly agreed that Meas’ foster parents could legally adopt her, and they are in the final stages of court approval.  

Her adoptive mother said, “My husband and I decided to foster her because we love children. We want to help children to be fulfilled with family life and a good childhood. The first time we met Meas, we felt compassion to provide all the best for her. All of our family members care for her and love her so much. We have observed changes in our lives since she joined our family. We are busier, but we are happy. We especially love to see her sweet smiles. Now we strive to earn and save more for her future.”

They continued to thank CIF’s social workers for the training to become better, more positive parents and citizens, including our support of their small business to help expand it and bring in more income. CIF and our partner stakeholders will continue to assess the family and offer support for at least six months after the adoption is finalized. We want to give the entire family the best possible transition. 

What appeared to be a challenging beginning for Meas and her biological mother has become a beautiful opportunity for a couple to get the child they longed for and a child to get the best possible care. 

Thanks for helping keep children in loving families. It’s where they belong.

Sweet Meas* and her new mother
Sweet Meas* and her new mother
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CIF & community leaders meet for placements.
CIF & community leaders meet for placements.

Thanks so much for standing with us through 2022. Recovery from over two years of the pandemic, with everything reopening and each family's needs changing, created a shift throughout our programs. 

We value permanency in loving families for children since this has been proven to be the best outcome for their development, attachment, and well-being. So, we are excited to share that CIF has assisted 13 families in domestic adoption, reintegrated one child, and placed several children into permanent foster families. That's in addition to supporting all other children and families in our Emergency Care, Foster Care, and Family of Origin as First Priority (FOR-1) programs. 

Each child and family we encounter is unique, with specific needs and challenges to overcome. This is why collaboration across our programs is vital to keeping children in families. Recently, our FOR-1 Program reintegrated Kosal*, a six-year-old boy, with his grandparents. 

Kosal's life began with tragedy. Giving birth prematurely, his mother died of blood loss en route to the hospital in Phnom Penh. Not even two kilograms in weight, Kosal required constant care. Overwhelmed, his extended family opted to leave the premature boy in the care of CIF. We immediately placed him in the capable hands of an Emergency Care family who nursed him to health. 

Once he was stable, our team met with his family, who felt they were ill-equipped to take him due to poverty and his health concerns. So instead, one of our loving Foster Care families raised him. Our ABLE Program monitored his growth and progress over the years since he had a medically complicated beginning. Through great love and care, he grew into a healthy, high-functioning child. 

Safe family reunification is a priority for CIF because it generally the best option for achieving permanency. Therefore, our staff continued communication with Kosal's grandmother over the years. 

This year, in close cooperation with the local government and the village leader, a family assessment was conducted to explore reintegration and safety. As a result, all stakeholders unanimously affirmed that Kosal could live with his family.

Before reintegration, CIF coordinated family reconnection while building the family's capacity through individualized training on child rights, protection, and positive parenting. Kosal enjoyed the first meeting with his grandparents and uncles. They showed him love and compassion. 

Kosal is now in his family of origin. His foster mother loved him profoundly and remained connected to his progress, and she is thankful that he continues to be loved and cared for. 

CIF staff on a ferry to get to a remote village.
CIF staff on a ferry to get to a remote village.
A CIF foster child being cheeky with the camera.
A CIF foster child being cheeky with the camera.
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Nary and Narin with their mother
Nary and Narin with their mother

We usually share recent intake stories about children transitioning from difficult experiences into loving families, finding stability. However, we find closing cases and saying “Good-bye” to families can be just as exciting. Because when we finish a case, it is because children are either grown into young adulthood or they are in a stable, sustainable family situation who no longer need our support.  

Three years ago, we received a referral from a local police officer, who was also uncle of two girls. He contacted the authorities about concerns he had for his nieces. Nary and Narin lost their father to drowning, and their mother had gone to Thailand to find work. She had been gone for years. Extended family members had taken the girls in, but they were forced by those relatives to drop out of school and work for the family.  

After realizing what took place, their uncle and his wife decided to take the girls in, saving them from exploitation. However, the family had three children of their own and a meager income. That is when the uncle stepped up and spoke with local leaders. He wanted to do the right thing for the girls, yet he needed support.  

Through our Family of Origin as First Priority (FOR-1) program, we were able to help lift the financial burden of this family, so they could raise their nieces. The girls returned to school.  

In that time, they received regular visits from our social workers to monitor the quality of their care and ensure they were in a safe environment. We also helped train the family in child’s rights, hygiene, sanitation, healthy parenting skills, the importance of education, etc.  

The girls thrived, while the Aunty and Uncle grew in many aspects of their parenting.  

A few years later, the mother returned to the area with a new husband and baby. Narin wanted to live with her mother, while Nary remained content with her Aunty and Uncle’s family. Local community workers, alongside CIF’s staff, built relationships with the parents, evaluating home safety. The stepfather was kind and eager to learn, cooperating well with local authorities and CIF.  

Soon, Narin was back with her mother, stepfather, and baby brother, who were also growing and learning. One of the many training courses they received was working on improving their livelihood. Our social worker discussed a seasonal calendar for income: jobs, home, gardening, raising animals, etc. The family found raising chickens for meat and eggs contributed substantially to their monthly earnings. So, CIF gave them business start-up money to increase their flock for better outcomes.  

This past year, Nary happily transitioned back in to living with her mother as well.  

“Before I didn’t know how to care, support, and protect my children. I also did not pay attention to their study. However, things have gradually improved since I met CIF staff. The staff guided me to better parenting and protection of my children. They also encouraged me to follow up with my children’s education, providing support for them. My husband and I commit to support them until at least they complete grade 12,” the mother said. “I am so excited to reunite with my two children. I am able to take care of them and fulfil my role as a mother. I commit not to abandon my two children anymore in all circumstances.” 

Narin is in her final year of studies and turned eighteen this year. Her sister, Nary, still has a few years left at home. The local community workers and CIF staff recently determined the family is in a position of financial stability and positive, healthy growth, so they put together an exit strategy from our program.It is with joy we release this family to thrive.  

With some of their “chicken money” the parents were excited to save up and buy Narin a motorbike to get to school.  

Narin told us, “We [she and Nary] are comfortable and happy to be reunited with our mother. She and our new father take care of us. Thanks, CIF, for supporting us since we lived with Aunty until we moved in with Mother. CIF staff always helped us with self-protection and encouraged our parents to support us positively.”  

Guiding families in livelihood development, building capacity in families to protect and care for their children, teachinglife skillsto children, engaging local authorities in monitoring and well-being of children, and connecting families to government support services are the crucial aspects of CIF’s work and exit strategies for families.  

Not only is one more healthy and thriving family in Cambodia a very good thing, but it also means we can now help another family who needs support and strengthening. Because all children deserve to be in loving families.  

Another FOR-1 family who are thriving.
Another FOR-1 family who are thriving.
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One of our adoptive families.
One of our adoptive families.

As CIF staff, we are incredibly happy to be back doing in-person visits. Family visits to check-in are so much better when we can sit face-to-face,look at their surroundings, greet neighbors and family as they pass by, andshare victories and struggles over iced coffee. Recently, ourprogram managers, who live in Phnom Penh, went to villages to meet with families and local social workers, as well as to continue to move forward adoption paperwork with provincial government leaders.  

Three families in two of our locations adopted their foster sons recently. I got to meet with each of them and hear their stories, from getting their sons as infants and falling in love with their precious babies to nurturing them as they grow and learn.  

Children in Families does not merely place children into homes, our staff walk alongside the families, helping, supporting, and teaching. CIF does regular training available to the community. During Covid restrictions these training courses were done individually from family to family, but now we are preparing to resume group gatherings at our local offices. Our training can include topics such as: hygiene to identifying sexual abuse to child’s rights to childhood development.  

There was a common theme among all of the families when asked about areas of growth in their own life. Every single family interviewed said they learned how to use life-giving words with their children. That their language mattered. They were taught to encourage and build up their children with words, as our staff continued to check and monitor this over the years.  

One father told me, “I am a teacher with some knowledge and education. We [my wife and I] got a lot of good advice and training from CIF, and we saw good outcomes as we implemented them. I think people need to respect their children and treat them like humans. Don’t bully. Find reason instead of belittling and abusing. It works so much. CIF taught me how to apply this. It was counter cultural to respect child’s rights, but we found we had a lot of positive fruit.”  

Another adoptive family shared how inconsistent they were with schedules and meting out punishments in their early years as parents. Following the patterns learned from their own childhood experiences, they sometimes used unhealthy means of discipline. After signing up to become foster parents through CIF, they were taught consistency is important and there are ways to set boundaries with children that are non-violent. They also learned about the power of words.  

They shared, “In the past, we just raised kids our own way. But when we meet with CIF, we were given some rules, education, and boundaries to help raise children. It was a better way. CIF had staff continually checking in on us and inviting us to learn and join meetings. CIF helped with books and some financial support to relieve a burden. We knew we did not have to carry it all on our own. We no longer felt like we were just surviving but like others were for us.  

Both the social worker and a community leader who works alongside women and children spoke of this family later and said, “They are so teachable. Everything we give them, they implement.”  

I was told that although the parents are illiterate, they are now leading family trainings in the community because CIF staff have watched them grow and treat their adopted son, as well as their own children, with incredible kindness and the parents really fight for their children’s well-being and future.  

The family said the biggest impact on them as parents was learning to speak life-giving words in their home.  

Finally, we are also working to extend our reach to even more provinces in Cambodia. Alongside partner organizations, we are in the process of setting up a new office location to meet the needs ofchildren in those areas. 

Training with a family on forms of abuse.
Training with a family on forms of abuse.
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Organization Information

Children In Families Organization

Location: Phnom Penh - Cambodia
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Children_in_Fam/
Project Leader:
Lynny Sor
Phnom Penh , Cambodia
$23,653 raised of $50,000 goal
308 donations
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