James Farley, our Social Work Technical Advisor has shared this case study with us about a good outcome for an abandoned baby thanks to our Kaliyan Mith Short Term Foster Care Project in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
‘In October 2012 Kaliyan Mith Siem Reap were contacted by Angkor Children’s Hospital (AHC) regarding Baby V*, a 3 month old boy who had been abandoned at the hospital some weeks earlier.
Baby V had some health issues, and had been left at the hospital by a couple from the North of Cambodia who said he had been abandoned by his mother.
A large number of babies are abandoned at the hospital in Siem Reap, with parents seeing it as a “safe” place to abandon children. Parents of children with ongoing health issues often fear that they will be unable to financially meet the needs of their children and anonymously leave their babies at the hospital.
The social work team based at AHC undertake family tracing for all abandoned babies, however, as AHC treats over 500 children per day and the hospital environment presents a high infection risk to babies it is neither possible or safe for babies to remain there for the extended periods that may be required whilst long-term solutions are found.
In 2012 Kaliyan Mith (the Friends program in Siem Reap) developed and implemented a Short Term Foster Care Project specifically to meet the needs of these infants. Short Term Fostering provides the babies with the one-to-one care and attention that they need for healthy development, and ensures that the children are safe and well cared for whilst the social workers from AHC and KM undertake family tracing and assessment and work to return the children to either their direct or extended family.
Before having children placed with them KM’s foster carers undergo an assessment, and background character checks are carried out with neighbors and local authorities. Whilst children are placed with foster carers regular follow up visits are made by KM social workers, and the foster carers are able to call the KM 24 hour Hotline if they have any problems. A program of regular trainings and workshops is planned for all foster carers in 2013.
The social work team at AHC visited Baby V’s mother in Odar Meancheay, but were unable to return Baby V to his mother as she did not wish to look after the child. The mother was found to be quite unstable, have no fixed address, and to be moving between Thailand and various parts of Cambodia. She was also HIV+.
After Baby V left the hospital he was placed with a KM Short Term Foster Carer, and the KM Family Reintegration Team took on responsibility for working to find a permanent care solution for Baby V.
The KM team again visited the mother, but she could not be persuaded to visit her baby and maintained that she was not able to care for the child. Local authorities in Odar Meancheay informed KM staff that the mother had had a previous child die, and, they felt that the lack of money, house and general instability of the mother’s lifestyle made reintegration very unlikely.
KM staff gathered background information on Baby V’s extended family, and a blood test was arranged for Baby V at AHC.
The blood test indicated that Baby V was HIV+, and, whilst still continuing to provide good care for the child, this diagnosis clearly frightened the foster carer, so a training session on “Caring for Children with HIV” was arranged by the medical team at AHC. Following this training the foster carer was both reassured and more confident about meeting Baby V’s needs.
KM social work staff next visited the child’s maternal Grandparents in Kampong Thom. However, reintegrating the child to the Grandparents was found to be not possible primarily due to the Grandparents being old and unwilling to look after a child with health needs.
Baby V had now been in Foster Care for almost 3 months. He was now receiving appropriate medication via AHC and his health was much improved.
KM staff visited an aunt of Baby V, who was initially very keen to accept and care for the child, but changed her mind on learning of his health issues. The aunt feared the discrimination both Baby V and her own family would experience as a result of his HIV status.
An uncle of Baby V was next visited. He and his family lived in Phnom Penh. They were keen to accept and care for the boy, but again were anxious about the implications of caring for a child with HIV. Following the visit by KM, a follow up visit was carried out by social workers specializing in working with people living with HIV and people affected by HIV based at Mith Samlanh (Friends International, Phnom Penh). Following discussions with the Mith Samlanh team, the family were clearer about the practicalities of caring for a child with HIV, and, reassured by the offer of ongoing follow up support by the team at MS, and were happy to accept Baby V to live with them.
AHC in Siem Reap arranged for the transfer of responsibility of Baby V’s medication and medical care to Komar Cheat Hosiptal in Phnom Penh, and in early January 2013, the child moved to begin his life with his Uncle’s family in Phnom Penh, where both Baby V and his family will receive ongoing specialist advice and support from the Mith Samlanh team.’
*In line with our child protection policy the child’s name has been changed to ensure privacy and pictures displayed here are not linked to the content of this story.