Hope and Homes for Children – an update on responding to Covid-19
16 December 2020
As reported in the last issue of Increasing Access, we have extended our global charity partnership with Hope and Homes for Children until July 2021, in order to provide continued support throughout the Covid-19 crisis.
Hope and Homes for Children is working to end the institutional care of children around the world – but for vulnerable families, the challenges of the pandemic and resulting lockdowns have been enormous. Covid-19 has put increasing numbers of families at serious risk of loss of income, poverty, homelessness and food insecurity.
“The struggle to provide for children’s basic needs, coupled with feelings of isolation and limited coping strategies, means parents’ emotional wellbeing is hugely impacted,” says Kate Welsby from Hope and Homes for Children. “This in turn can lead to higher instances of family breakdown, separation and child abandonment.”
The struggle to provide for children’s basic needs, coupled with feelings of isolation and limited coping strategies, means parents’ emotional wellbeing is hugely impacted.
Kate Welsby, Hope and Homes for Children
Adapting way of workings
Following their early interventions at the start of the crisis, Hope and Homes for Children’s teams of social workers and psychologists around the world are continuing to implement new ways of working under lockdown to protect vulnerable children and keep families together.
“Initially we had to minimise field operations and shift to operating remotely, working through local authorities and partners,” says Kate. “Our social workers maintained contact with families by phone, keeping them updated with information on Covid-19, monitoring their health and wellbeing, encouraging them to follow quarantine rules, and staying vigilant about additional risk factors like domestic violence.”
Our social workers maintained contact with families by phone, keeping them updated with information on Covid-19, monitoring their health and wellbeing, encouraging them to follow quarantine rules, and staying vigilant about additional risk factors like domestic violence.
Kate Welsby, Hope and Homes for Children
Many activities planned in relation to orphanages were put on hold, but the charity’s teams have maintained telephone contact with staff and children in institutions, particularly those who were preparing for fostering or reintegration. As lockdown restrictions have started to ease across some countries, Hope and Homes for Children is gradually resuming direct contact with families in many of its programmes, prioritising those in urgent need of support. Institutions and Small Group Homes continue to be in lockdown, although some activities are now slowly starting up again.
In India, for example, the charity’s teams have continued to monitor the wellbeing of the children in institutions and ensure the staff are following government guidelines on safety measures. They are practising hand-washing techniques and carrying out regular health checks. As the government has started to relax strict lockdown restrictions, the Supreme Court has issued revised guidelines allowing local Child Welfare Committees and Districts to reunite children with their families where they are confident it is safe to do so.
In Nepal – another of the countries in which we are supporting a specific programme of work with Hope and Homes for Children – its staff and partners are having to work ever harder to prevent steps backwards. At the beginning of the pandemic, Nepal faced unplanned and unsafe reintegrations, loss of safeguarding mechanisms and increased family vulnerabilities – in a context of constraints on engaging with national and local authorities, and with child protection becoming a lower priority.
“Despite these challenges, our case workers continue to work with families to ensure that children are not exposed to harm or abuse,” Kate Welsby says, “and to monitor and support children who have been reintegrated to their families. Now that restrictions in Nepal are easing, over the past month we’ve been able to reintegrate eight children back into their families and are monitoring 21 children in person. In the meantime, we continue to work with national and local authorities to ensure child protection remains a priority at this time.”
Urgent early interventions
Since the start of the pandemic, Hope and Homes for Children’s interventions have focused on:
- Ensuring that families have accurate health information on Covid-19 and local government guidance on restrictions, as well as essentials like food, water, soap, hand sanitiser and medicines
- Identifying services that children no longer have access to – such as schools, kindergartens and day-care services – and assessing how meals or other specific support can be continued
- Replacing visits with frequent phone calls to follow up on families’ specific needs
- Ensuring case workers speak directly with the children to reassure them that support is available
- Liaising with local community initiatives to ensure vulnerable households are supported and do not become isolated
- Conducting case management meetings virtually and postponing case closures until final visits can be conducted
- Working with government ministries, local authorities and partners to support institution staff with hygiene information, PPE and transport to minimise staff shortages