Cases of child neglect have been on the rise in Kisumu County as reported by the Children Department. The Children Services office has been recording increasing numbers of such cases since January 2021.
According to the Child Protection Officer George Kidas, many children across sub-counties in Kisumu are now facing a bleak future due to lack of parental guidance and involvement in their lives.
“Since early January, we have been recording surging numbers of child neglect cases with a monthly average of 32 cases. These cases make up 90 per cent of all the cases we handle on a daily basis,” Kidas said.
The nature of child neglect cases includes child abduction, child custody and child defilement. Under defilement, a medical assessment is carried out on the victim followed up by a home visit by a Children’s officer to determine the state and relationship of the victim with the guardians.
The contributing factors to the rise of the cases include social issues, financial constraints and domestic violence which is mostly at the epicenter of child neglect.
Social factors like traditions and cultural practices like polygamy have also led to instances of one parent not taking responsibility of the family.
Financial constraints due to the adverse effects of Covid-19 pandemic which has triggered economic hardships, have contributed to many people living below the poverty line leading to children fleeing from home and turning to the streets for support.
“The process of dealing with a child neglect case often involves a set of procedures. Through the complainant’s report, the first sermon is issued out to the respondent, failure of the respondent to show up to our offices then the second sermon is issued out,” Kidas revealed.
He added that when the respondent failed to show up after the second sermon, other stakeholders like the police are involved. However, in a case where an agreement is reached, the officers advises them to co-parent for the benefit of their children.
Co-parenting involves a 50/50 per cent share between the two parents and an agreement certificate is also signed by the two parties.
As a way of curbing the increase of the cases, high levels of sensitization at the grassroots like villages through chiefs and chief barazas is being carried out in order to equip members of the public with the knowledge on the dangers of child neglect.
Joint efforts with the police department and the Judiciary through the courts have ensured that the irresponsible guardians are held accountable for their actions.
The Children Act, Chapter 141 in the constitution stipulates that every child has a right to guardianship, protection, maintenance and care by their custodians.
Child Protection Volunteers (CPV) in various areas across sub-counties have played a role in ensuring that the children subjected to parental neglect are rescued.
Other institutions like children’s homes such as Mama Ngina home and Agape home have provided a safe space for these young souls.
“I appeal to parents to exercise family planning methods so that they can have the right number of children they can comfortably take care of,” urged Kidas.
By Meredith Akinyi and Juliet Akoth