KENYA: Care Reform is in the Best Interest of the Child, Catholic Care for Children Delegates Affirm


By Paschal Norbert

NAIROBI, MAY 19, 2023 (CISA) – “Whatever we do, must be child-centred and family-focused,” averred delegates of the Catholic Care for Children (CCC) convening in Nairobi, Kenya, from May 16 to 18, 2023, to deliberate on the care reform to see children growing up in safe and nurturing families.

The meeting under the theme, “Reading the Signs of the Times Together: Catholic Care for Children”, brought together the Catholic Care for Children International (CCCI) and Catholic Care for Children Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Uganda, Malawi and Sri Lanka.

“Indeed, caring for children is not an option but an obligation. Failure to care for children not only damages the children themselves but in the long run, society as a whole suffers. Simply put, there would be no future to talk about for both society and the church. Therefore, campaigns on child care reforms, child protection and rights should be ongoing in communities, schools, places of worship, homesteads and workplaces,” said Sr Josephine Kangongo, the chairperson of the Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya (AOSK) in her welcoming remarks.

According to Sr Kangongo, the convening was timely as it came at a period when the universal church and the society is rediscovering the importance of safeguarding minors and the importance of family and community-based care as opposed to institutional care.

Dr Ronald Luwangula, a child protection researcher, in his presentation, argued that children mostly experience violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation while in institutions and sometimes lack access to education, health, and social support.

Thus, the researcher rallied the participants to embrace the systematic reintegration of minors into family and community-based care, a key component in the global care reforms advocated by the Catholic Care for Children Movement.

“The reforms proffer that children should remain in their families and only be separated when necessary and for the best interest of the child and that efforts should be made to place them in appropriate community-based care and not institutions,” stated Dr Luwangula.

He also put forward that “institutional care is quite expensive and not sustainable. Covid-19 could have taught us this because when it struck, our donors were greatly affected, and this compelled us to send the children back to their families.”

Archbishop Martin Kivuva Musonde, in his capacity as the chairperson of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), highlighted the role of the Church in caring for children as a ministry bestowed by Christ “to ensure that all children are well taken care of by exploiting their full potential.”

“The Church has an obligation to promote safe nurturing family care for children: those reunifying from institutions or those at risk of child-family separation. Families are central to God’s plan for his children. They are the fundamental blocks of strong societies,” underscored Archbishop Kivuva.

Addressing the gathering on May 17, Fr. Anthony Makunde, the Secretary-General for the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA), emphasized the power of collaborative ministry in the care of children. He noted that the mandate on care for children has its foundation in the teaching of the Church.

“May this convening strengthen the bonds of your partnerships in this field of catholic care for children.  I believe that when we unite and pull in one direction the result will be positive and meaningful impacting both society and the church,” explained Sr Kangongo.

The Catholic Care for Children (CCC), is a sister-led, charism-driven movement to ensure that children grow up in safe and loving families. The movement began in Uganda in 2015, Zambia in 2017, Kenya in 2018, Malawi, Sri Lanka and CCCI in 2021.

The May convening supported by the GHR foundation also saw the participation of other development partners including Misean Cara, Porticus and Catholic Relief Services (CRS).

The leadership of AMECEA and bishops, the Association of Consecrated Women in Eastern and Central Africa (ACWECA), the Religious Superiors Conference of Kenya (RSCK, the Association of the Religious in Uganda (AMSRIU), the Association of Women in Religious Institutes of Malawi (ARWIM) and the Zambia Association of Sisterhoods (ZAS).