Helping Colombia Orphans
There are countless children in orphanages in Colombia who have lost parents due to civil conflict and HIV/AIDS. While others are abandoned due to extreme poverty, parental drug abuse or arrest. Still others are left without homes and parental care after serving time as child combatants.
Most of these children have little hope for adoption because they are “older” (more than 6 years old). Exacerbating the problem is the stigma that Colombian society assigns to these children and Colombia adoption.
Colombia orphans are emancipated from the child welfare system at age 18. Most leave the orphanages in Colombia without a high school education, unable to support themselves and with no caring adult to guide them.
Kidsave is committed to affecting change for these orphans.
In 2007, Kidsave launched the Lazos de Familia program with the Instituto Colombiano Bienestar Familiar (ICBF), Colombia’s national child welfare system. Lazos is a child advocacy and family recruiting program that helps Colombia kids in orphanages ages 7 to 18 find permanent families and long-term mentors. Through this program children and interested adults have opportunities to get acquainted at monthly Kidsave-sponsored events. As relationships develop, families and children then can get to know one another and host families are able to welcome the child into their home for weekends, holidays and school vacations.
Kidsave’s Project of Life program helps prepare older Colombia kids for young adulthood and independent living.
Host families work Colombia kids to teach basic life and social skills according to an individualized plan that is developed based on the child’s needs. Progress is assessed both by the family and by the child welfare workers in the protection home (orphanage) where the child resides. The children’s social skills, scholastic performance and outlook on life appear to be improving as a result of their participation. All children who participate in Lazos de Familia are part of the Project of Life program. Kidsave is working with ICBF to expand this program for Colombia kids.
Training the Trainers (TOT)
Kidsave has developed educational materials and seminars to train child welfare professionals (social workers, psychologists, etc.) who work with orphans in permanency and family-based care models so that our successes can be replicated in other places. Once trained, these professionals can properly engage and train orphaned children, families and mentors to participate in family visit programs, and provide selection, pre-placement evaluation and family matching and post-placement support and monitoring. In just two years, Kidsave has trained more than 125 child welfare professionals in Colombia who have the potential to change the lives of hundred of Colombian orphans in the next five years.
The Colombian government enthusiastically embraces family visits for children in protection. “Family inclusion” has become part of the national child welfare guidelines. For all programs, Kidsave and our government staff work together to establish and refine protocols that benefit not only children in Colombia, but serve as a model of public/private sector cooperation
For more information about Kidsave’s programs in Colombia, please contact Randi Thompson at Randi@kidsave.org.