'We call upon those who want to become foster parents to work with the probation and social welfare office such that they can be assessed and in the long run enable us decongest the children stuck in orphanages'
PIC: Wakiso district probation officer Mary Nakazibwe addressing participants during the African child day celebrations held at Watoto Bbira village on June 29, 2018.. (Credit: Nancy Nanyonga)
ADOPT TO REDUCE ORPHANAGES
If all orphans had homes, there would be no need for orphanages. This is the call Mary Nakazibwe, the senior probations and welfare officer, Wakiso district, made during the district's day of the African Child's celebrations on Friday.
"We call upon those who want to become foster parents to work with the probation and social welfare office such that they can be assessed and in the long run enable us decongest the children stuck in orphanages," Nakazibwe said.
Whereas orphanages never existed in the past, Nakazibwe said many of them (orphanages) that exist today are not sustainable in improving the lives of children, but instead stigmatises them.
She revealed that a total of 2,000 children are currently stuck in 40 orphanages in Wakiso district, most of who are a result of teenage pregnancies and parents suffering from mental health as a result of drug abuse, domestic violence and other stress factors that lead them into abandoning their children.
"Many children today get into sexual activities and because of lack of proper parental guidance, many end up pregnant and abandon them on the streets and in hospital beds because they are not ready to take on the responsibility," she stated.
Nakazibwe made the remarks at a ceremony organised by the Wakiso district local government to commemorate the day of the African child at Watoto Village in Bbira on Friday.
The day of the African Child, celebrated annually on June 17, is meant to, among other roles, raise awareness of the continuing need for improvement of the education provided to African children. This year's theme is: ‘Leave no child behind in Uganda's development'.
Children who gathered at the event from several schools were given the opportunity to debate about the theme.
Vanessa Nakiwu, a Primary Five pupil at the Watoto Village, said whereas she had no hope for a bright future, God changed her story.
"I have made many friends and family and this shows me that I am a sign and wonder of God who gave me hope and a reason to live," she said.
Paul Okello from St Mary Kevin Primary School spoke against the battering of children, saying if he had not taken care of as a child, he would not have been what he is today.
However, according to Nakazibwe, majority of the cases the district receives on children are of child neglect, denial of access to resources, walking in public places unaccompanied, high child dropout rates from school, sexual abuse and of late child kidnaps.
"Wakiso being very urban, we on average receive 15 cases of this nature monthly, most of which is on child abandonment. But there are also worse situations where newly born babies are thrown in pit latrines, left in hospitals and those who are lost and found are not claimed," she explained.
It is against the above background that the district local government uses such celebrations to remind parents of their responsibilities towards their children.
A parent interested in taking on the role of fostering a child has to first apply to the probations office, after which assessments are made on whether they can take on an extra responsibility before a child is identified.
Nakazibwe explained that parents are normally assessed on principles of love, care, protection and space in the house for the child, adding that the number of children a couple has is not a limitation for adoption.
The probations office also assesses the neighbouring community with social networks such as schools, health centres, to ensure that if a child is placed in a particular area, they are safe.
Contrary to previous regulations, the Children's Act as amended in 2016, reduced the time for foster care where parents are supervised for one year as compared to three years.
If a parent is found to be coping well after supervision for one year, he or she then makes an application before a chief magistrate for adoption.
Maj. David Matovu, the Resident District Commissioner Wakiso district, appealed to parents to let children explore their talents and potential.
"No child should be killed, kidnapped, denied access to education or beaten. They are not animals," he said.