Children in institutions during Covid-19

I have not given up on my passion for children without parental care or children who are living outside of their biological families. I mean those children who may find themselves living outside their family homes for periods which may be longer than 10 years. They are also known as children in state care or in residential care/alternative care/substitute care.

I woke up today with the realisation that once a vision is birthed, it can lie dormant for a while, but it never goes away. I think about these children and young people right now during these Covid-19 times. I am wishing that children’s homes and institutions that care for these children are doing all they can to ensure improved hygiene standards and safety from infection. How are they practising social distancing? This may be the time to reconsider the need for smaller facilities and not pack up children in dormitories that house more than 60 children at a time.

Is our government prepared to ensure safety regulations for children in substitute care? My only hope is that they have not been exposed to the virus and they can stay indoors to ensure they are not exposed to any infected persons. I wonder what preventative measures are being taken to ensure that children are not exposed to visitors at this time. I know most children’s homes like the idea of visitors and volunteers coming in to spend time with the children and possibly leave some donations. But, right now is probably not the right time for that and I hope they will put the safety concerns first, before anything else. There should not be any visitors during this time because you just never know who has been infected. This is also not the time for children to go out on visits outside the children’s home. Which brings the question of how are the children being occupied during the lockdown?

  • Do they have enough leisure activities?
  • Do they have enough books?
  • Is there space for them to play outdoors within a protected area?
  • And the caregivers? Are they continuing to work shifts, going in and out of the facilities or they are staying full-time with the children? How is the care being managed during the lockdown?

The UK government has provided some guidelines for the care of vulnerable children during Covid-19 on their website HERE. They are keeping children’s homes open but liaising with local authorities to ensure that they have the necessary workforce to remain open to deliver the vital protection they provide for vulnerable children. They are also working hard to ensure continuity of care including ensuring the essential number of social workers and caregivers remain on duty. They are also ensuring emergency registration of social workers who had left the profession so that they can return to practice.

We have not seen any statements from the Zimbabwean Department of Social Services (DSS) regarding the lockdown, but we are keeping our ears on the ground and will provide an update.

Source: Getrude Gwenzi, Gwenzi Child and Youth Care Consulting (GCYCC)

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