KUALA LUMPUR: Some 451 children throughout the country have been deinstitutionalised this year, says Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rohani Karim.
Rohani said that at present, there were 1,200 children who were still staying in 11 children’s homes which come under the ministry, along with another 11,000 children in over 200 homes run by non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Rohani said the whole idea of deinstitutionalisation, or family-based care, was to ensure that children are integrated with their families, relatives, neighbours or friends, not institutions.
“The best place for the child to grow up is with the family. It is important for children to be reintegrated with their families.
“For my ministry, we have a target for 450 children to be deinstitutionalised annually,” she said in a press conference on the sidelines of the three-day 5th Family-Based Care (Deinstitutionalisation) Conference 2017: From Concept to Action here today.
The Sultanah of Pahang, Sultanah Hajjah Kalsom, launched the conference, which was also attended by OrphanCare Foundation chairman Faizah Mohd Tahir.
Rohani said the ministry placed emphasis on getting children placed in the right families, as they did not want cases of trafficking of babies and children.
Strict interviews are carried out and the necessary documents submitted to ensure the children get into the right families.
“We monitor twice a year, but if we do get information that something is not right, we will visit even more.
“We want to physically see the children. If they are bubbly, they will show us they are bubbly. If they are depressed, they will show us that too,” she said.
Rohani added there was also a 25-year age gap requirement for singles who wish to adopt these children.
Meanwhile, Faizah noted that a survey carried out showed that 85% of children in orphanages have families, hence making the issue of adoption secondary.
In stressing the importance for children to be reintegrated back with their families, Faizah said as a result of poverty, many families were incapable of providing for their children.
“We need to find out what it involves, the types of activities, and how to bring these children back to their families.
“It is not easy to just take one child and send back to their families. There needs to be counselling, assessment, and courses.
“It is not just the child but the parents, who need to be provided with the means to take back the child,” she said.
The ministry, together with OrphanCare Foundation, have been working on transforming the system of child welfare services in Malaysia since 2014, by adapting the concept of Family Based Care from Lumos, a UK-based organisation with expertise on deinstitutionalisation across Europe.
The theme “From Concept to Action” represents the culmination of four years spent raising awareness and creating a broader understanding about switching to a family-based care model, and a call to mobilise key stakeholders in Malaysia to deliver a national action plan and roadmap to implement family-based care in the coming years.