Keeping children and parents together in Indonesia
Over the last 15 years, Tata, and Yanti have been focused on one thing in their work: keeping families together when it’s safe to do so. But their jobs, along with the rest of the team at Save the Children Indonesia, have been made immeasurably difficult with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There are thousands of children that have become separated from their families due to COVID, whether that’s because the parents have to be in quarantine, or have passed away because of COVID,” Yanti, Save the Children’s Child Protection Specialist, explains.
“We’re supporting these children, together with the Ministry of Social Affairs, who are responsible for responding to situations where children may have lost a parent, or both parents, to find alternative care, such as extended family or foster care.”
Tata and Yanti each have stories of children who, because of the pandemic, have been left without support. “We’ve just heard of a toddler and a baby that have lost their mother,” recounts Tata. “The father can’t work, and the kids need urgent attention. We’ve been sourcing donor breastmilk for the baby to keep her fed. Unfortunately, over the next few months, we’re going to continue to hear stories like this.”
Tata is Save the Children Indonesia’s Deputy Chief - Program Impact and Policy and has been with the Families First program since it started. He’s seen the rhetoric in Indonesia change; from families being separated as children went into institutional care, to the current focus on keeping families out of poverty and children with their parents.
In 2007, two years after the Families First program started, about 500,000 children were living in more than 8,000 childcare institutions, the highest number in the world. In 2019, that number was only 100,000. Many of the reasons children are living in institutions, despite having parents or extended family to care for them, can be addressed, says Tata.
“Often parents believe that they can’t afford to keep and educate their children. They desperately want their children to have a good education and believe these institutions can offer that.” But education in some of these institutions aren’t guaranteed, and abuse and neglect are common.
The Families First program works with parents, social workers, childcare institutions and government departments to ensure children’s rights and needs are upheld - most importantly, their right to be raised by their own family.
“We work with parents on positive parenting, but we also provide support for them based on their needs, which is key to preventing the economic collapse of the family – a key reason children enter out-of-home-care,” explains Tata. “For example, one of the families we supported had a sewing business, but regular electricity outages meant the business was about to collapse. We supported them to increase their electricity capacity so they could continue working and were able to meet the needs of their children.”
“This is the way to be independent – providing families the opportunity to keep the kids with them and ensuring their basic needs can be fulfilled – love, attachment, food, education, a house.”
“During the pandemic, the support from government especially for social workers needs to continue. Tens of thousands of children have lost one, if not both parents. They are grieving deeply and are anxious about their future."
“Although the COVID pandemic is making things dire, we are optimistic that the processes, governance, and training we’ve put in place over 15 years will go some way to making sure children affected by the pandemic will have their rights upheld to stay safe, healthy and happy with their family.”