Church leaders in Kiambu have partnered with the childrens’ office to support governments initiative of moving away from Children institutionalization to family-based home care.
The government review of the children Act and also guidelines for the alternative care of children has seen stakeholders coming on board to ensure that an institution should be the last resort to placing children.
Speaking during a clergy’s forum organized by Child in Family Focus in Kiambu, the clerics under Kiambu County Clergy Forum (KCCF) said that the church has a critical role to play on matters children.
KCCF chairman Rev. Dr. MacMillan Kiiru said Care reforms, is global conversation and the church therefore should be not only frontliners in engaging on how best the children should be cared for but also in promoting the alternative care services for the children that the government is promoting.
“KCCF is partnering with the Children Department in order to realize the Reform Agenda for the Children of Kiambu. Through partnership with the Children body the Church in Kiambu will provide opportunities for education and awareness of care of children”, he said
Rev. Kiiru said the church will be able to facilitate the fostering and adoption of children in family and community-based child care so that the transition of the huge number of children who are institutionalized can be transferred to family and community home care.
He noted that Kiambu county has serious challenges with respect to the children and youth due to sexual and gender-based violence not to mention the problem of drug abuse, alcohol and unemployment and this has escalated the issue of abandonment of children
He called up the government to incorporate care for the children at the Education curricular as well as in Nyumba Kumi initiatives as part of promoting the family child care.
“We want to acknowledge that the church has been in the periphery and have not done enough in terms of empowering families but especially in care for children. My challenge is that the church should not only accept, acknowledge and empower families especially the single mothers but to rethink and have a paradigm shift of strengthening and supporting the vulnerable children.
As pastors, Rev Kiiru said they need to go beyond and not ignore children as the world has overlooked them as Children according to scriptures are close to Gods hands.
Clergy’s under the KCCF, Rev. Kiiru said they are committed and will play their role to assist in bringing down the current number of 3000 children who are currently under institutions In Kiambu to at least 2000 in the next one year
“We shall form home care departments in our churches that will assist to ensure family as an alternative care option for children be it as Kinship, Foster, Adoption and even Guardianship care.
Peter Kamau from Child in focus, a non -profit organization championing family-based care for orphaned and vulnerable children through care reform said Kenyans have been receptive to the idea of moving from children’s homes to family home care, as an alternative.
“God himself has commanded us in his direction who are we say no, when we look at the scripture, we are reminded on what God tells us about children and through these readings the church can unpack the messages to align with what the government is doing on alternative family-based care options for children”, he added
Kamau emphasized that Care reforms is a process of change noting that the National Care Reform Strategy for Children in Kenya launched on June 8th by the government and his Grace Most. Rev. Dr. Jackson Ole Sapit, The Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya, shows how the role the church is central to the reform of child care services.
“The church has a critical role to play in also changing the mindsets of citizens when it comes to matters children”, he said quoting some prominent personalities in the world such as Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt and many others who grew under foster care and turned out successful.
Kamau called upon churches to use their pulpits to preach spiritual messages that are in the bible to their congregation and join the government in speaking in one voice on matters of addressing issues of vulnerable children.
The Kiambu Children’s County Coordinator Rose Mbarine said there will be need for more forums and training during the transitioning from institutionalization to family home care.
She noted that with the right support provided within the clergy community and family, separation can often be prevented giving vulnerable children an opportunity to grow in a family unit.
“The time for a child is now and other things can wait. For a child we cannot wait for tomorrow and going forward, the department of children guided by the Children’s Act and also the Guidelines for the alternative care are ready to work towards developing and promoting prevention of separation of children from the families” Mbarine said
The government continues to raise awareness on the importance of family and community-based care for orphans and vulnerable children through the support of the new Children Act 2022 which has taken effect replacing the 2001 Act.
By Wangari Ndirangu