Family Preservation and Reunification

HOM: Promoting Safe and Stable Families

The ideal world is the harmonious one in which all people behave in a correct and right fashion; parents fulfill their parental responsibilities; social services are in place to protect the weak, vulnerable and downtrodden; and people are good not because they are weak but because they owe it to the community. The ideal world is the harmonious one in which there is love and there is no corruption, poverty, hatred or injustice.

But, we do not live in an ideal world… We live in the real world, where newborn abandonment, baby dumping, child desertion, incest, child trafficking, child prostitution and other dangerous practices against children exist.

Our primary concern at House of Mercy Children’s Home, Lagos, Nigeria (HOM) is the care and well-being of children while striving to keep families together whenever possible. As such, we seek to ensure the safety of street children by supporting their transition from the streets back to safe home environments. We also endeavor to prevent newborn abandonment, baby dumping and child desertion by supporting unmarried pregnant young women in crisis and empowering single mothers in need.

While some of the 45 homeless street children who have passed through our children’s home since March 2011 have been reconciled with their families, those who have no one else to care for them, especially those who are at high risk of sexual and economic exploitation remain in our care.

Many of the problems in our society arise because of parents who abdicate their responsibilities as guardians. Part of our activities include parenting education and family preservation as we seek to educate and encourage parents to take responsibility for their children and provide for their basic needs.

Another major obstacle to family preservation is the phenomenon of “poverty” orphans. It is a well-known fact that many of the children in orphanages are not “true” orphans but “poverty” orphans with living parents who voluntarily give up their children for the services provided in the orphanage.

Poverty is said to be the leading cause of family separation and reason for placement of children in orphanages. Poor families are often coerced into giving up their children in exchange for money by unscrupulous institutions and adoption agencies.

Poverty, however, is not a justification for child abandonment. When children are able to stay with their birth parents and experience the special parent-child bond despite limited resources and get an education, they are empowered and enabled to rise above their circumstances and break the cycle of poverty for themselves and ultimately their families. The HOM school sponsorship programme was initiated in 2010 to provide financial assistance for children from needy families, in particular girls, whose parents could not afford to send them to school.

The protection of a child’s sense of belonging to family, promotion of family preservation and  prevention of “poverty” orphans, however, are issues greater than one NGO. It will take the combined efforts of federal, state, and local policy makers and child advocates nation-wide to address these most pressing issues.

Supporting birth families and communities to cater for their children and create a safe and nurturing home might seem more complicated in the short term. But in the long term, it pays enormous dividends. Not only are such children more likely to succeed and grow up to be good parents but they are also more likely to contribute to their communities and to the development of their countries.

My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world. – Author Unknown