Save the Children is working to ensure children orphaned by COVID-19 in Indonesia are found homes with next of kin, registered guardians or foster families, warning that children could otherwise end up in orphanages or be illegally adopted.
As Indonesia’s COVID-19 death toll reached over 70,000 on Thursday, social workers are seeing increasing numbers of orphaned children in need of care, Save the Children said. With daily cases in Indonesia now surpassing India, there are concerns that many more children will lose at least one of their parents.
With families driven further into poverty as they lose their breadwinner, there is an increased risk that children could be pushed into child marriage, child labour or sent to orphanages even if they still have one of their parents, Save the Children said.
Children in poorer families with one caregiver are sometimes sent to orphanages as families don’t have the financial means to provide for them.
Save the Children is working with the Indonesian government to reform the care sector, ensuring that children are cared for by extended family wherever possible, or, failing that, adopted or placed in foster families rather than sent to orphanages. It is also training social workers to protect children who lost their parents from violence, neglect and exploitation.
Save the Children is also operating helplines to offer psychosocial support to distressed children and refer them for professional psychological support if needed.
Dino Satria, Chief of Humanitarian & Resilience Program at Save the Children Indonesia, said:
“Losing a parent is heartbreaking for any child and for these children the devastation of the past year will be felt long after the pandemic. Social workers tell us they’re seeing more and more children in need of care, and we’re concerned that the situation will get even worse as the death toll from COVID-19 continues to rise. Our focus is keeping children safe, and we’re doing everything we can to make sure they get the best possible care.
“Years of working in this field has shown us that children are much better off in family-based care where they can continue to feel secure and loved. That’s why we’re working with the government to reform the care sector, to ensure that children orphaned by this pandemic get the support that they need.
“Besides the immediate threat to their safety, we’re also extremely concerned about the toll this crisis is taking on children’s mental health. Children are seeing their parents suffer without access to oxygen or proper medical care, which is likely to leave them extremely distressed. We’re ready to support children who need mental health support via our helpline.”
Arka, 14, lost his father to COVID-19 at the beginning of July. He wasn’t able to visit him in the hospital due to restrictions. He said:
"I was angry. How could his own children not be allowed to visit [the hospital]? I wanted to come but I couldn't - it's not allowed. I wanted to see him for the last time before he died, but I couldn’t.”
There is no official data on the number of children being orphaned due to the pandemic, and Save the Children fears that many children could miss out on help due to the difficulties in tracing and registering children who have lost their parents. The organisation is urging the public to report to social services when parents have died and left children behind.
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