On 10th November, LEADS organised the Mishpachah Forum as a part of the Deinstitutionalisation and Alternative Care (DIAC) project. The forum is formed with the support of faith-based organisations that promote alternative care methods for children living in institutions across Sri Lanka. 46 participants from different grassroots organisations actively participated and contributed to the discussions on strengthening families and promoting alternative care methods.

Highlighting the significance of the concept of the family, Mr. Monroe Jayasuriya, Chief Executive Officer of LEADS in his opening remarks stated, “Being surrounded by a loving family, where children can grow up in safety and security should be a basic right of every child, however, we know very well that in today’s context this is not the case. Having a safe environment for a child to grow in has become a privilege. Deinstitutionalisation of children is a matter that needs to be addressed with urgency, particularly in the Sri Lankan context.”

The participants were also made aware of the existing issues pertaining to institutionalisation such as governance, economic and social and protection that can bear long-term effects on children. Malnutrition, school dropouts, child labour, insecure housing, lack of parental guidance and poor sanitation facilities were some of the effects of ineffective institutionalisation. Further, preparing children and families for re-integration, creating more options, most suitable care options such as family-like institutions, respite centres, rescue centres etc. and strengthening families and community-based alternative care mechanisms were elaborated and discussed at length.

Sharing her expertise Mrs. Nirmalee Perera, Senior Probation Officer, Department of Probation and Child Care Services stated, “This is the very first time that the Department was able to conduct a workshop for faith-based actors on DIAC options for children.  I was able to raise awareness of the current existing alternative care policy and work plan at the ground level to minimise institutionalised children.” She further stressed, “I firmly believe that faith-based actors can play a pivotal role in strengthening families through prevention.”

The initial step towards developing a collaborative action plan was achieved through the forum as LEADS received very positive feedback from the participants who also volunteered to work as a committee in future Mishpachah initiatives. “Thank you LEADS for hosting a wonderful and informative session on Deinstitutionalisation and Alternative Care for vulnerable children.” Said Mr. Pshamindra Fernando representing World Without Orphans (WWO) Sri Lanka.

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