Parents who have heart

The Wednesday afternoon programme was another cup of tea for most of us.

We went with Ramatu from the UNICEF child protection department to the Nyarugenge district office to meet with people from the NCC (National Commission for Children).There we had a great presentation by Valence. He walked us through the childcare reform process in Rwanda, with very much enthusiasm and a clear passion for his subject.

Powerpoint presentation by Valence
Presentation by Valence

In January 2012 the government made a commitment to close down all orphanages and to reintegrate children into family-based care. This commitment came after a national children’s forum during which the children can recommend changes to the government (another great thing in Rwanda). UNICEF provided technical support to the NCC to oversee the successful reintegration of children living in institutions and to create a national system for alternative care. The deputy mayor in the district also made a speech in Kinyarwanda.

And, although Cyriaque had to translate it for us into English, his points came across very well.One of things he said was that the parents taking care of these orphaned children now were like guardian angels sent from heaven to make children’s lives better and show them love.

As an adoptive father of two who has experienced the international adoption process in Ethiopia and Kenya, it was very impressive for me to see and hear the dedication and passion of the presenters.The commitment shown by Valence, his team and a civil servant were very touching. Usually you encounter, in my experience, a lot of governmental ‘red tape’ and demands for more documentation due to a poor national childcare system. These people illustrated for me a different way of thinking where the child always comes first.

We also had an opportunity to ask questions, which we did!

Every child who is going from an institution to family care is followed by a team of social workers and psychologists and has a personal care plan. The aim is to find the child’s family, if they are still living, or extended family members. Failing that, they look for people in the local community, parents who have heart, to take take care of a child. A few challenges remain, for instance, a clear definition of foster care and national adoption with the legal status for these options.

But the end goal always remains the same: a secure, permanent placement for the child (or children, in the case of siblings). To show an example of the work they are doing, Valence (NCC) and Nicolas, from Hope and Homes for Children, which works with the foster and adoptive families, took us to a private family home in Kigali.

We were welcomed into her home by a lovely woman and her three daughters. Unfortunately, her husband was abroad working for USAID in Afghanistan. With a great sense of pride, the mother told us their story, how and why they decided to adopt a four-year-old girl when they already have two beautiful daughters. She was happy and wanted to show us what is possible if you care and love the children of Rwanda.

Let me finish with a quote from Noala Skinner, the UNICEF representative in Rwanda: “We are here to serve the children of Rwanda. We want to serve them well but aim to serve them brilliantly.”

For me, this afternoon illustrated that they are well on their way!

Pupil at Kanyinya primary school – By Peter Rison
    Peter Rison