Supporting Child Protection and Foster Care in Sierra Leone

This blog was written by SFAC CEO, Dan Hope.

Recently, I {Dan} embarked on a transformative journey to Sierra Leone as part of SFAC’s partnership with 1MillionHome. The work was funded by 1MillionHome and HCW (Helping Children Worldwide).

This visit aimed to support CRC, an organization that had closed down its orphanage a few years ago and was now re-evaluating its strategies for the future. We worked with them last year to think through the needs in their community, their strengths as a workforce, and the options open to them. From here we identified a wish to work in the child protection and foster care area where there are minimal services. 

Guiding CRC Towards TransformationFrom a children’s home to alternative care

During this recent visit, the focus was on empowering CRC with knowledge regarding family support and child protection services that could be provided to families adapting and building on their current programmes that they wanted SFAC to review. The goal was to guide them in assessing whether a child was at significant risk of harm and needed alternative safe provision. Through collaborative efforts, CRC developed a plan that is currently under review in consultation with their USA partner, HCW.

We then moved to Freetown from Bo to train CRC and two other organisations Princess Promise and Child Prosperity Unit on the fundamental principles and concepts of foster care. All three organisations are interested in developing it in Sierra Leone where there are no known formal foster care programmes. 

Some key questions at the core of these discussions included:

How can we ensure it will be safe? 

What knowledge and skills do parents possess that caregivers need to acquire? 

Is foster care the appropriate solution for the child?

Who would be the most suitable caregiver if foster care is necessary? 

It’s important to note that SFAC’s work is not to create a foster care programme but to enable those organisations present to have a structure where they can develop their own foster care project. 

A Challenging Yet Rewarding Experience

Our journey in Sierra Leone started with a rough and bumpy boat ride across the sea, which included a moment when the back door fell off, leading to a brief worry about the safety of our luggage. Fortunately, thanks to the skill of the captain, we made it safely. 

Similarly, CRC’s journey toward establishing a successful foster care program may face its own bumps along the way. However, with their skilled workers and the support of SFAC, I am confident that they will do a great job.

Sierra Leone presents unique challenges for social workers due to limited resources and structures. Our work here involves innovative practices that build upon existing community-based approaches. It has been a privilege to witness first-hand how CRC has incorporated these approaches into their thinking and child protection responses. The resilience and dedication of the social workers in Sierra Leone are truly remarkable. Similarly, the social workers and para-social workers (unqualified) of Princess Promise and CPU were equally impressive and we look forward to seeing how these organisations build their programmes to support children in families. 

Everybody gets a certificate!

Picture showing Teddy a dog, looking into the camera with his certificate

It was an enjoyable three weeks in Sierra Leone, although it was a little hot and humid!

We had an amazing view from the kitchen table where we held our training sessions in Freetown.

However, we’re not so sure if Teddy, the dog, enjoyed the training as much as everyone else did. He joined us in every session every day, but he seemed less impressed with receiving a certificate, just like everybody else who attended!

Reflections and Future Prospects

Sierra Leone has left a lasting impression on me. The beautiful yet challenging country requires dedicated social workers who can navigate through limited resources and bring innovative solutions to the table. Witnessing CRC’s dedication to rethinking its strategies and focusing on child protection and foster care has inspired me. The work we have done together is just the beginning, and I am excited to see the positive impact it will have on the lives of children and families in Sierra Leone.

My visit to Sierra Leone has been an eye-opening experience filled with challenges, learnings, and hopeful prospects for the future. The work done alongside CRC and other organizations has laid the foundation for a foster care program that is tailored to the needs of the local community. As we continue this journey together, I am confident that Sierra Leone will witness positive transformations in its child protection services, ensuring a brighter future for the children of this resilient nation.

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