Social worker Sun Chhailim regularly visits families in her service area in Cambodia. Because of poverty, lack of employment, and other challenges, many of the families she meets are unable to send their children to school or to care for their basic needs. Some families have recently migrated, and others are headed by aging grandparents with very limited resources to care for their grandchildren.
Sun teaches these families how they can protect their children and provide a nurturing and loving environment essential for healthy development even in the face of threats and challenges.
When families assume their children will be better cared for by others in a local orphanage, Sun explains the benefits of staying together and helps provide support that allows them to care for their children at home.
Since 2013, with support from Cambodia’s government, USAID and other U.S. agencies, and social workers like Sun, over 45,000 families have received services allowing them to stay together.
The best investment a country can make to eliminate extreme poverty, boost economic growth, and promote a peaceful society is to invest in its children. When the family unit is strong, all other goals and outcomes for children are well within reach.
Cambodia is just one of many countries that prioritizes investment in the care and protection of vulnerable children and families. Over the past year, as the U.S. Government Special Advisor for Children in Adversity, I have witnessed similar commitments around the globe.
Many countries — including Armenia, Colombia, Ghana, Kenya, Moldova, and Rwanda — have made renewed pledges to care for and protect their children from violence, abuse, exploitation, and neglect, recognizing their investments in children as the cornerstone to sustainable economic development. The impact on the lives of these children and their families has been remarkable.
Despite all the progress, in many ways, the need to care for and protect the most vulnerable children and families has only grown. As a result of poverty and other factors — including disease, disability, humanitarian crises, exploitative labor, and human trafficking — millions of children continue to live without protective, nurturing, and loving care that only a family can provide. Faced with chronic, unaddressed adversities, the resulting toxic stress has shown to have life-long and debilitating mental, emotional, and physical effects.
The next five years is a critical time for action. The U.S. Government’s whole-of-government commitment offers a unique platform, strong momentum, and a clear path forward to continue our investments in the development, care, dignity, and safety of the world’s most vulnerable children. Ensuring that every child can survive, thrive, and reach his or her full potential is central to each country’s long-term development and will ultimately produce positive gains in families, communities, and the nations where they live.
The good news is that strategic investments in parents, children, and the families who love and care for them is possible to both prevent adverse childhood experiences, and to build resilience so they can thrive even under difficult conditions.
I am proud to stand behind the U.S. Government’s new strategy, Advancing Protection and Care for Children in Adversity: A U.S. Government Strategy for International Assistance (APCCA). It builds on our past successes and calls for continued comprehensive and coordinated commitments across several U.S. Government Departments and Agencies.
Our investments will be even more effective when implemented through innovative partnerships including with the faith and community organizations and the private sector that increase the scale and effectiveness of U.S. efforts.
APCCA moves our work forward firmly with three evidence-based objectives: (1) Build Strong Beginnings, (2) Put Family First, and (3) Protect Children from Violence. Success with each objective creates a multiplier effect by contributing to a solid foundation to protect children and adolescents from a wide array of risks, and supporting their development, care, and safety.
The strategy is ambitious. With the expertise and bold commitment of our U.S. Government partners, including the U.S. Departments of Labor and State; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the National Institutes of Health; and the Peace Corps, our mandate for action is realistic and achievable.
About the Author
Sarah Gesiriech is the U.S. Government Special Advisor on Children in Adversity.
Click here at 2 p.m. June 17 for a live stream of the strategy launch.