For fifty plus caregivers heading various Child Development Centers in Colombo, Gampaha and Kaluthara districts in the Western Province, this was a special occasion.
LEADS organized an award ceremony at the Sapphire Hotel in Colombo for the distribution of certificates to caregivers who participated in a training on “Quality Care for Children in Institutions” during 2016. The Commissioner of the Department of Probation and Child Care Services of Western Province, Chandima Dissanayake was the chief guest. Also present at the occasion was the Probation Officer in Charge of Kaluthara, Colombo and Gampaha districts.
According to reports (2015) over 12,000 children are in institution care in the country. Of which 4,000 children are from the Western province. Among the root causes for children to be institutionalized poverty, addictions and mother migration lies at the top while abuse and neglect are factors that cannot be ignored. Some claim to have at least one parent alive and are longing to see them but family issues, addictions and vagrancy are drawing them apart.
The occasion was the opportune moment for the caregivers to be appreciated and valued. In her opening lines Nayomi Silva said ‘Help light the lamp for a child’. When a child goes to sleep it may be you s/he has in mind in the image of a mother, and a father. You are important to them. Not only do you provide their basic needs but also emotional strength that is vital for their wellbeing, she added.
Upeksha Dilrukshi, the warden of Gunasekera Childrens’ Home appreciated the training provided by the program. It taught me two things she said. First as caregivers of children it is important that we take care of ourselves before we are able to take care of the children. Second I realized that we need to encourage children to include discipline in their daily routines and take up simple responsibilities.
The main objective of the training was to improve the quality of care provided for children in institutions. The course focused on improving knowledge, skills and attitude of care givers. The subjects covered were – caring for yourself as a care giver, managing emotions, problem solving skills, handling difficult children and child protection related subjects. These sessions were done by LEADS staff members.
Institutionalizing abused and neglected children is the most convenient choice that everyone is making claimed Roshan Mendis, the head of LEADS. A recent study of seven South Asian countries reported that this is also the case in many other Asian countries. However we could explore other options that keep children happy – family based options like living with a close relative or alternative options like adoption and foster care.
A family is the most important unit that gives a child a sense of belonging. Children receive love and are nurtured in a family. Children no matter how old, seek love and attention. In the absence of a family children may gravitate towards groups that resemble a family. This can prove to be dangerous – as it has been the case, children have got themselves involved in various forms of abuse, addictions and harmful relationships.
The Commissioner, Department of Probation and Child Care Services Chandima Dissanayake said as caregivers at Child Development Centers we are mothers (and fathers) of many children. So many children look up to us to receive the love which is missing in their lives due to break down in family relationships. I encourage you to reach out to many as possible and make a change in their lives. She shared stories drawn from her own experience with children in institutions, to emphasis on the daunting task undertaken by the caregivers of children. These emotional stories illustrated how children managed to triumph over their struggles and achieve success in life. One girl prone to wanton destruction was passed from one institution to another. In the end she made her breakthrough and is now a line-supervisor in a reputed garment factory. A boy who was kept back to prevent himself from getting into mischief, had urged the commissioner for permission to take part in the school sportsmeet. With the request granted he soared to success in athletics representing his school at the zonal games.
Ms Dissanayake congratulated LEADS on the vision and commitment to build and strengthen the capacities of child caregivers working in institutions. She said training for caregivers was felt as lacking in most places. Further training for caregivers enhancing their knowledge will be much appreciated she concluded.
LEADS remains committed on its mandaate on serving needy children. Currently it is the only organization that carers to mental health needs of abused and neglected children through a holistic program. The organization offers services through the residential therapeutic center in Colombo and Jaffna. LEADS also supports these children by providing couselling, legal help and family follow-up.