Orphanages in Cambodia occasionally get blanketed with bad press due the failures of some of these organisations. This week’s stories have again unleashed latent criticism (not all of it very informed) about the role and standard of orphanages across Cambodia.
In fact the Cambodian Government is working actively in the sector to lift standards. As this Al Jazeera report shows the sector has at least 500 orphanages and of these only around half, 270, are formally registered with the Ministry of Social Affairs. So the Government is taking an aggressive shape-up or ship-out stance towards the sector with an overall intention of reducing the number of children in foster care.
This has been the recipe promoted by UNICEF, but the story isn’t so simple. In a nation with no real safety-net for needy families, and the number of Cambodians living below the poverty line estimated to be one third of the population (92% of whom are rural dwellers) the UNICEF objective of returning all children to their families simply doesn’t address the core problem: how will the children of the poor receive adequate food, care and education?
Until adequate safety mechanisms are in place the role of orphanages (who need to openly discuss that most of their children have at least one parent) must be rated as necessary.
In the meantime the Government’s policy of promoting and, if necessary, enforcing higher standards of care and management is to be applauded. For Savong’s organisation these steps have led to more compliance-related paperwork.
We do think that this will accelerate the need for volunteers to be required, in future, to produce police clearance forms of similar, from their own countries in order to help vouchsafe that volunteers have no dubious back-history. See also: Savong School child safety policy.