In Paraguay, around 5,000 children and adolescents live in state institutions. Of those, 15 per cent were abandoned, some 10 per cent are orphans and another six per cent were homeless when placed into care, according to a survey by UNICEF.
Around 90 per cent of children living in state residential care have at least one living parent, according to UN data. Parents are driven to place their children in care due to extreme poverty, drug or alcohol abuse and medical reasons, among other reasons. The majority of the children could be reunited with their parents given the right support.
Paraguay is one of the poorest countries in Latin America with almost half of the population living without sanitation, clean water, electricity and adequate housing.
Some children fall through the cracks of the system and end up on the streets where they resort to petty crime or begging just to survive. Without adequate protection and a supportive environment, these children face a very bleak future.
Enfoque Niñez was set up in 2005 by a group of professionals alarmed by the high number of children placed in institutional care by judicial order. Enfoque Niñez works towards the de-institutionalisation of children and young people in Paraguay by promoting the use of foster care as an alternative system.
The organisation has a team of professionals in psychology, social work and law whose goal is to find a nurturing environment under which each child can thrive.
These professionals provide tailored social and psychological assistance to child victims of neglect or abuse, and work to create and maintain a bond with families. When possible, Enfoque Niñez helps children’s reintegration into the family.
Enfoque Niñez also works to identify volunteer families who can offer temporary care to children and young people until more long-term arrangements can be made.
Enfoque Niñez’s strong advocacy work has resulted in changes to public policies at a national level. The organisation had a direct impact on the lives of 71 children and adolescents in 2015.
Photo: Santi Carneri