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
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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While Cambodia reopened schools since November 2021 and much of Cambodia is fully vaccinated, it would be inaccurate to say that the country has returned to normal. The residual effects of factory closures, tourism dying off for two years, goods and services crossing borders shut down, and a serious lag in education means the nation will be recovering for several years to come. Those who make their living day-to-day were set back the most significantly as they had no margin for the lost income resulting from those closures.

In addition, NGOs lost funding and the ability to monitor vulnerable people and communities at the same level. One of the greatest gifts of being on the ground here in the Kingdom of Wonder, however, was watching the generosity of communities’ increase. When neighborhoods were locked down, neighbors stepped up to help. Businesses who barely survived themselves, spent their time cooking and delivering food packets to communities. Creativity of care spread.

And so, we want to highlight our lesser-known projects in this report, showing how connection to local leaders in our communities was vital this past year.

CIF has always been a proponent of Cambodians caring for Cambodian families. CIF’s Foster Care Project started in a small village near Vietnam. From the beginning, we worked with village chiefs, local government officials, and church pastors to monitor and evaluate care in families. We get their input for programs and child placements because we know they are knitted into their communities and have a vested interest in the people in their villages.

While our social workers are wonderful, they cannot be in all places at all times. Our Church Partnership Project is key in this and even more needed during Covid-19. Spread across the nation, we work closely with church leaders to recognize the vulnerable in their communities, know better how to serve them, and to grow in knowledge and compassion for what they are going through.

CIF trains these leaders in child protection, recognizing what a family at-risk of separation may look like. They learn how to refer these families who are struggling and may benefit from one of our programs. The project also strengthens these leaders in improving supports on the local level to care for the vulnerable.

When the government banned travel, making it difficult for our social workers to reach some cases in person, CIF still had trusted contacts on the ground. They updated us on situations and helped serve the communities we work alongside.

Even within Phnom Penh, a recent FOR-1 family interview led to a conversation about a local church helping grandparents keep their orphaned granddaughters out of institutional care. Due to the death of the mother and departure of the father, this family was at risk of separation. The grandparents loved their granddaughters. But, they were poor and unsure how to provide for the girls. Just as they were about to place the girls into an orphanage, a local church stepped in, informing them of CIF. Elated, the grandparents got the support they needed to keep the girls.

Finally, we wanted to celebrate with you a year that brought three domestic adoptions to completion with eighteen others still pending different steps in the legal process. Permanency is a focus of our programs. While CIF works hard to promote stability in all substitute family situations, domestic adoption goes further than the important bonds created in long-term foster families. Formal adoption makes a child a legally recognized member of a family, allowing them to be put into family books and inherit property. It really is amazing to know that twenty-one of our foster families this past year took the steps to adopt their children.

Because children belong in families.

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“I see so much change in my children’s lives and in mine through (the help of) CIF. My two children have become healthier now that they have visited the doctors and received treatment regularly. CIF supported the transportation, accommodation and food for us go to the hospital, something that I had not been able to afford.  We fell in debt due to medical expenses for both my children and for me. With better health, my children can focus more on education. They also help me with some housework and with my small business. Also, my health condition is better now that my burden has been released. We have started having a more hopeful life since we have known CIF especially the efforts of CIF staff to encourage us, guide us and support us.” 

These comments were made by the mother of one of our FOR-1 (Family of Origin as 1st Priority) families. Seventeen-year-old Sophy* and fourteen-year-old Sopha* (* names changed to protect confidentiality) live with their widowed mother and another older sister. District officials referred these two girls to CIF to assess their eligibility for family preservation services. A joint assessment between CIF and local and district officers revealed that the girls were very much at risk of family separation. Both of the girls have hyperthyroidism which had been diagnosed previously but had gone untreated for some time due to the family’s challenges. The medical center was far and they could not afford to continue to go for regular follow up.

CIF provided financial support to help meet the family’s immediate needs while also providing regular case management. The field worker visits them at home on a monthly basis, providing training on such topics as positive parenting, child rights and protection, body hygiene, sanitation and Covid-19 self-protection. Monitoring the quality of care and child protection that Sophy and Sopha receive, as well as their education, are also a part of each visit. CIF field workers have encouraged them to stay focused on their education, even during school closures due to Covid-19. Both girls have been studying via distance learning and are doing well, with Sophy studying in grade 11 and Sopha in grade 8. They know that a good education is important for their futures.

CIF’s disability support project, ABLE, has provided additional support with following up on the girls’ health, including providing coordination and support (transportation, accommodation and food) for the mother to take the two children to Kuntha Bopha hospital in Phnom Penh every two months. ABLE staff also ensure that the girls are taking their prescribed medication regularly, Both Sophy and Sopha have improved health as a result. 

Early on, CIF field staff began to discuss with the family how they could improve their livelihood to achieve long term financial security. As a result, CIF shared the cost of purchasing a grinding machine to support the mother’s small business of making soy milk and desserts. She had identified that as a way that she could increase her profits. Because she no longer has to pay to have the soybeans ground for her, she has been able to nearly double her profits. It also saves her valuable time and effort, as she previously had to travel and wait in line to have the soybeans ground.

“CIF staff always guide me for better parenting so I can protect and support my children as well as monitor their health condition. I realize that I can raise them and support them better than before. I am happy with my increased income since we have the grinding machine supported by CIF. I am trying to save for my family especially to support my children to pursue their dream of being a teacher and a health staff. Thanks CIF!”

It is easy to see the positive effects of CIF’s intervention for this one family. Additionally, there is a ripple effect which extends out to their community. Not only does strengthening this family enable them to have more to contribute to their community for years into the future, CIF’s involvement of local government officials helps to develop their capacity in child protection and family strengthening efforts which can produce positive effects for other families in need. Multiply this by the 392 active cases that CIF is currently supporting and you can see that your support is paying off in big dividends! So, a big thank you to all of you who are helping CIF to be able to continue to do the work that we do. We couldn’t do it without you!

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Organization Information

Children In Families Organization

Location: Phnom Penh - Cambodia
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Children_in_Fam/
Project Leader:
Lynny Sor
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
$17,170 raised of $50,000 goal
 
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