What We Do
Safe Haven Children’s Trust
Safe Haven Children’s Trust aim to prevent the abandonment, institutionalisation and exploitation of children in Cambodia. We promote and support optimum childhood development ensuring the new generation of Cambodia is given best possible chance.
We aim to give Cambodian children the best start in life by providing key services:
Day Care Services
Enabling parents to gain employment and increase the family income while the children benefit from the support services. We provide children with a safe and caring environment where they are able to access healthcare and education whilst still being able to live with their families. Having children at daycare means that their parents can work – an option that may not otherwise have been open to parents in the communities where we work. This in turn means that parents can provide for their children, and families can stay together.
Local families and communities also receive assistance via a range of community programmes including counselling and childcare education for parents.
Where possible, we always aim to avoid the need for any any institutional care, but occasionally it is transitional care is required in some extreme cases.
Children in immediate risk or need can be admitted on a temporary residential basis before being reintegrated into their family or the community. Children in this situation are often at acute risk of starvation, extreme neglect, physical, emotional or sexual abuse and trafficking.
We are firmly of the view that institutionalisation harms a child’s development. In order to help offset this, our residential children are provided with the sort of loving care that one may expect from a family environment. We have a team of full-time nannies who care not only for the physical needs of our residential children, but that play, stimulation, love and affection that we believe are key to childhood development.
We work closely with the families and/or communities of children who are taken into crisis care, to help them get themselves into a position where they can care for their children themselves.
Family reuniting and reintegration
With the residential and crisis care programme, the long term goal will be eventually rehoming the children, ideally into the family of origin, or if not possible through local and international adoptions, foster care and residential community care. We hope wherever possible to move children out of long term institutionalisation. When we take in orphaned or abandoned children, we also work tirelessly to track down the children’s original families or communities, and work with them in the hope that they may be able to welcome the child back into their care. The staff are tireless in their search, and we have a great social worker who assesses and works with the families and communities of abandoned children. As can be seen from our case studies, we have had great success with this approach. However, we recognise that reintegration with the family or community of origin is not always possible, for a variety of reasons. In such cases we work towards finding the child another home.
Prevention of Abandonment
We work nationally across Cambodia to intercept children before they are placed in orphanage care, and to to work with the parents and extended family to help prevent the need for any institutional care, and keep the children in a loving family.
In Cambodia, orphanages have become the most prevalent response to poverty and social exclusion: since 2005 there has been a there has been a 65% increase in numbers of private orphanages, and there are currently 258 orphanages in the country . However, it is estimated that over three quarters of the children in orphanages still have at least one surviving parent. These “orphanages” are in many cases effectively boarding schools, where children visit their family regularly. Poverty and lack of education means desperate parents think that such “orphanages” provide the best start for their child. Moreover, even where parents intend an orphanage to provide short-term care only, the reality of poverty, and the difficulty of travelling to visit children in institutions which are often miles away from the child’s home means that families are often broken apart.
Studies show that institutionalisation prevents the healthy development of children, a problem which has a long-term effect.
There simply no substitute for the loving care provided by families and communities. Many orphanages in Cambodia have no child protection policies. Children suffer where there are no background checks on staff and volunteers. This is a particular problem in the orphanages which effectively allow “open access” to tourists, who are allowed to come and play with children.
Children are treated as tourist attractions, and required to “earn their keep” by farming, or performing for tourists, often late into the night. Further, the success of such shows and visits in encouraging donations has led to some centres’ feeling that there is a demand for “orphans”, causing children to be unnecessarily separated from their families. These children are exploited by the very centres who are supposed to care for them.
There are of course many institutions with good intentions. However, their resources are stretched, and low staff: children ratios mean that children often do not receive the care and attention that they need to develop. There is therefore a real demand in Cambodia for more family centred care. Further, many of the existing institutions do not care for babies. Our work is therefore aimed at children aged between 0-5.
Our results so far
We have provided full medical checks to all who pass through our doors, daycare, residential and crisis-care alike. Many of the children had serious health problems, such as tuberculosis and malnutrition. All have received treatment and have recovered, or are recovering full health.
- we have reversed the effects of malnutrition for ALL the children attending our Daycare project;
- children leave Daycare with basic literacy, numeracy and other skills that they didn’t have to start with, and then move on to regular school attendance, setting a good example for others in the community;
- 70% of children in our residential programmes have been permanently reuinited with biological families
- we now work in partnership with several excellent NGOs including Friends International, Krousar Yoeung and Mlop Tapang.
- Our high standards of childcare, education, counselling, healthcare and nutrition have created a ripple effect of positive change and good practice in the communities where we work;
Here are a some quotes from the families we work with, after attending our Parent Support workshops:
“We are so busy everyday to earn money so we didn’t have enough time to care our children. Someday I was tired so I didn’t clean my hand before have lunch – now always do.”
“Khmer traditional is the man has powerful in family. I know I have made violence to my kid, I’m so regret”
“When I praised my kid they very happy to continue their activities.”