Monday, August 24, 2009

National Symposium on Foster Care, Including For Children Affected by HIV, Held in Viet Nam

MOLISA, HealthRight, and partners with the support of USAID reach over 150 service providers and policy makers

HANOI, VIET NAM – On August 21 – 22, the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, HealthRight International, UNICEF, and Pact Viet Nam, with support from USAID, held a national symposium to examine options for how best to improve the community- and family-based care services available to orphans and vulnerable children in Viet Nam, including those affected by HIV.

Currently, this population faces significant medical, psychological, social, and material challenges that may negatively impact their development.  While existing social protection practices in Viet Nam encourage institutionalizing children without parental or kinship care, international best practice favors community-based care for children.

“It is universally recognized that keeping vulnerable children in supportive and well regulated family and community-based settings is the most conducive for holistic child development,” said Jesper Morch, UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam, at the symposium.  

There is a need to regulate this type of alternative care and ensure that vulnerable children benefit.  Viet Nam’s National Plan of Action for Children Affected by HIV and AIDS, approved in June of this year emphasizes the special needs of children affected by HIV. 

MOLISA Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan said, “We see that the foster care model very child-friendly and in the best interests of the child, particularly for orphans and vulnerable children, including those affected by HIV. After this symposium, MOLISA will assign its departments to review and develop related foster care legislation, as well as issue guidelines for local authorities on applying this model in the localities, in cooperation with international organizations.”

While examining examples from other countries, including HealthRight’s previous work to develop foster care in St. Petersburg, Russia and the foster care system in Australia, participants sought to determine how to move forward with the development of a national foster care system in Viet Nam.

“We are happy to be here to share experiences from a similar context in Russia. By working closely with the government and local partners in St. Petersburg, our program has now placed over 300 children in foster care.  HealthRight in Viet Nam has begun piloting foster care based on this experience in Russia. Their objective is to support local authorities to build a nationally regulated foster care system,” said Roman Yorick, Russia Country Director of HealthRight International.

It was recognized that there are still many legal and staffing and gaps in Viet Nam, as well as lack of awareness about foster care, however participants were hopeful that these barriers could be overcome. The symposium was acknowledged as an important initial step in facilitating this.  

The symposium was made possible by Pact Viet Nam, with the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).