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The Children Left Behind

From 2012 to 2016, there has been a total of 43 children abandoned at Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC), according to AHC’s Social Work unit statistics. So what circumstances could cause a family to abandon their own child? Why would they leave the future of their child to fate?

Mr. Dim Sophearin, AHC’s Social Work Manager says that there are many complex reasons behind the abandonment of children. Those reasons can involve dire poverty, beliefs, family conflict (domestic violence or divorce) and the misunderstanding that children living in orphanages may have a better life than children who stay within a family under pressure.

“Some families told us that they cannot keep their kid because the child was born with something unusual such as a disability or illness, which would likely lead to financial or social difficulties for the family or community. So, they believe they must remove the child from their family. Other families think they are unable to care for a child with a chronic disease, and think that leaving them at the hospital is better than keeping them in the family”, explains Mr. Sophearin.

When a child is found abandoned, AHC’s Social Work unit will firstly provide healthcare and medical treatment for any illness or injuries. Next, the team will provide a carer to look after the child while measures are taken to locate the family. This can take a great deal of research and enquiries, but the team must try their best. If they do find the family, the Social Work unit will work with the family to support them (financially, medically and emotionally) and help them to understand that the child is best off staying with the family, not in an institution. But if they cannot find the family or if the family refuses to accept the child back, the team will send the child to one of the care organizations partnering with AHC, all the whilst still advocating to the family to reintegrate the child.

“Some families cannot accept their kid back because their belief is stronger than their family connection. However, if they agree to accept that child back, we will continue to support them to make sure that the family is happy and healthy and that we are confident they will not abandon the child again”, says Mr. Sophearin.

To ensure they are doing the most effective and efficient work with families of abandoned children, the Social Work unit works in constant cooperation with government, authorities and partnering organizations to provide education to communities and to find partners that support child safety.

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