Grandparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings and other relatives play an important part in caring for vulnerable children across the world. According to the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children welcomed by the UN in 2009, this form of “kinship care” should be the first option considered for children who cannot be cared for by their parents.
In a panel discussion hosted by our member Uyisenga Ni Imanzi in Kigali on Wednesday 30 September, we were joined by the National Children’s Commission Executive Secretary, representatives from UNICEF, Hope and homes and other organisations active in Rwanda to discuss kinship care in the Rwandan context, drawing also on learning from our members in Brazil and South Africa.
Children in kinship care are often well looked after by grandparents, aunts and uncles and older siblings. But it might not always be the case: sometimes children can be discriminated against and abused, made to work longer hours than other children in the household and given less food. Some carers, especially grandparents, can also struggle to meet children’s needs.
Despite the vital importance of care by the extended family and the higher levels of vulnerability of children in kinship care, experience from Rwanda and elsewhere in the world suggests that kinship carers and the children in their care often do not receive the support they need – including poverty alleviation through social protection programmes and the support of social workers. Communities play a vital role in supporting kinship carers.
“We know that the best place for children to grow up and thrive is with a loving family, but we can do more to ensure that children have access to that basic right. This event could bring about real hope and permanent, positive change for children in Rwanda who are growing up alone with little hope of a positive future”, says Chaste Uwihoreye, Executive Director at Uyisenga Ni Imanzi and Family’s board member.
Uyisenga Ni Imanzi are currently establishing a pilot programme with the support of Family for Every Child, to learn more about effective strategies for building community child protection committees.
1.1% of children in Rwanda are orphans, and 9.1% have lost one parent. Between 2012 and 2013, over 4000 children in Rwanda were growing up without the protection of a loving family; either in residential facilities, temporary shelters, or detention centres.