Ugo Aliogo

The Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Youths and Social Development, Hakeem Muri-Okunola, has expressed the desire of the state to partner SOS Children’s Villages, Nigeria in the area of alternative child care.

Muri-Okunola, who disclosed this recently in Lagos at the capacity building and stakeholders’ engagement with the theme: ‘No child should grow up alone’, said government and organisations must continue in their efforts to define and identify systems of informal care and recognise its importance in embracing vulnerable children.

He said the primary importance of alternative care for children was to keep them in when traumatised and return to the care of their family when they are stabilised or search for another permanent solution.

He explained that every child regardless of gender, socio-economic status, ability and ethnic background has the right to live in a supportive, protective and caring environment that promotes his or her full potential.

“Lagos State as a responsive government establishes various units and department to care for this category of children. We have government homes and approved private orphanages; they are not meant to institutionalise the children but to serve as a transit home to stabilise whatever traumatic experience the children might have gone through before they are either released to their biological parents, guardians, and relatives or adopted/fostered to willing and qualified homes,” Muri-Okunola noted.

“We urge stakeholders to work together and understand the impact of institutions on children, taking into consideration measures to prevent the institutionalising of children and to commit to transformation of family-based system of welfare and protection.

“We must be actively imaged and be a part of the development of child protection systems and the decision making process that directly affects them,” he said.

In his remarks, the National Director, SOS Children’s Villages Nigeria, Eghosa Erhumwunse, said the programme was aimed at building the capacity of stakeholders on alternative care guidelines for children, and understanding the importance of caring for children regarding the United Nation Convention on the Child Rights, as well as the laws and acts that have been domesticated across the states in Nigeria and Lagos State in particular.

He also stated that the partnership with Lagos State Government was to ensure that they build capacity of stakeholders who provide care for children and see how best they can run with this guideline.

He explained that the focus is to try to understand the meaning of the two main principles; the principles of necessity and suitability, noting that what they do is to provide a family environment for children, which he said has been key part of their efforts done over the years.

“With the coming up of the UN Care Guideline, we have also moved with the trend of innovating our care options for children to be able to seat into the UN Alternate Care Guideline. With the principle of necessity, it is very clear that the best place for children to grow up is within their biological family environment, therefore, we do everything possible to prevent child entering into formal alternate care,” he noted.