By Jenny Mek – Mt Hagen
The Catholic Archdiocese of Mt Hagen is fast moving towards the setting up of a family home for neglected children. At a planning meeting on the 30th of July chaired by Abp. Douglas Young and attended by experienced people active in social work, family life ministry, child protection and health services a few guidelines were identified to respond to the deteriorating situation.
Five main elements of social change are believed to be responsible for the current abandonment of children: parents contracting or dying of HIV/AIDS, marriage break ups, urban drift, unemployment, and inter-cultural marriages. Society’s rejection of orphans is quite alarming. Though there is awareness of orphans, yet there is no acceptance. A participant at the meeting, someone already working with orphans, revealed being herself over-looked, stigmatized and discriminated against for taking care of the orphans. “People call them bastards”, she said.
Two main reasons are believed to be behind the rejection of orphans in the PNG Highlands. The first is land. There is a land shortage. People think that what is available should go to the biological children and not adopted orphans. Sanguma or sorcery related killings of one or both parents also negatively impact upon the children, who may be suspected of having inherited sorcery powers. For these reasons orphans are left to fend for themselves.
THE RESPONSE HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED IN TEN POINTS
Provide family life support and counseling.
Provide housing: separate arrangement for boys and girls.
Promote nutrition programs.
Work with the Justice Department and Child Welfare.
Have clear guidelines for the Centre.
Establish a drop-in Centre.
Involve researchers on the team.
Put emphasis on spiritual guidance.
Consider age limitations to avoid conflicts.
Appoint a case manager for the Centre.
Archbishop Douglas Young strongly stressed the importance of working in collaboration with the Government and with NGOs that promote Children’s Rights and welfare.