I recently participated in two groundbreaking events focused on highly vulnerable children. The first in November was the Way Forward Project Summit sponsored by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI)which brought together African and U.S. officials and experts in this field to make recommendations for strengthening child protection systems in six African countries. The event was held at the State Department and Secretary Clinton gave solid remarks making her the first Cabinet level official to specifically address this important cross-cutting issue.Secretary Clinton's remarks, referenced above, included the following:
The second event in December was an Evidence Summit on protecting children outside family care. It was sponsored by USAID with participation and support from over a dozen U.S. government agencies or offices that work with vulnerable children. For the first time, a true ‘whole of government' approach was presented that is beginning to break through the silos that typically define our government's approach to children's issues globally. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah drew from his personal experience in Haiti seeing the devastating toll of the earthquake on children and ended his opening remarks by noting that the most important line of protection for vulnerable children is a safe and loving family.
And we know, not only from our own personal experience, how we feel when we see a child being abused or neglected or in some way denied the rights that children should have, but that is backed up by scientific and sociological studies going back more than 50 years. Consistently, the studies prove that children in residential institutions too often experience developmental delays, attachment disorders that obviously impact their ability to mature and their success later in life. One recent study showed that, on average, children reared in orphanages had IQs 20 points lower than those raised in foster care.Clinton's last paragraph states the subsidiarity principle from the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption. I like the emphasis of both conferences on strengthening existing families. Reactions?
Now, over the past several years, many countries have taken steps to get children out of orphanages, off the streets, into kinship and community care situations. But UNICEF still estimates that there are at least 2 million children in orphanages around the world, and that is likely a vast underassessment. So there’s clearly more work for us to do.
What you’re doing today with The Way Forward Project is bringing policymakers, investors, and implementers together. And we are so proud to be partnering with Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, and Uganda, and we applaud the leadership of those countries for putting your children first. We’re seeking ways to improve the full continuum of care for vulnerable children. For example, in Ethiopia, USAID is helping return 400 children from institutions to family care or foster care. We’re working with the Ethiopian Government to improve the oversight of all children in care. And the ideas discussed today, we hope, will turn these good ideas into policies. And I’m pleased that next month, USAID’s Secretariat for Orphans and Vulnerable Children will follow up on this event by hosting the first-ever Evidence Summit on Children Outside of Family Care.
Let’s improve coordination between different government programs. Let’s try to provide more support to families to be able to take in children who need kinship care. When separation is unavoidable, let’s promote early childhood development with local adoption foster care and, when desirable, inter-country adoption.