UNICEF, she said, is happy to support the development of the two policies and they are committed to support the implementation process.
Representing the Inspector General of Police, Assistant Inspector General, Mustapha Kamara said children, like every citizen, should enjoy the right to protection by law and that such protection offered by the laws of Sierra Leone is in line with UN, AU and other agencies of which Sierra Leone is a member.
He said offences against children are sensitive and that they often require the intervention of the police to work with other organizations such as Child’s Social Care, Rainbow Centre etc.
The Inspector General he said has invested greatly in training and providing resources in that direction to enhance Police ability to offer the best possible service to child victims. This, he said, is in line with the strategic vision of His Excellency Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio’s ‘New Direction.’
The Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Hon. Baindu Dassama in her speech said the situation of children in the country is of grave concern especially for children who live without their biological parents.
The minister said that out of about 2.4 million children in the country, 27% are recognized as vulnerable, lacking the protection of primary caregivers; 11% are orphans who have lost one or both parents and that there are large numbers of other vulnerable children who lived outside their families home, in households headed by either an elderly person or a child etc.
Minister Dassama furthered that the need for a policy and regulatory framework on Alternative Care for children in Sierra Leone was urgent as the lack of this policy has resulted to protection failure in kinship care, fostering, independent living and children homes where practices were ad hoc and irregular.
Responding to this situation, she said her Ministry with a strong commitment to the well-being and welfare of children, developed the National Alternative Care Policy; a policy that provides guidelines on the practice of alternative care in the country which included the regulations for the care and protection of children in children’s homes, quality care standards, inspection guidance for approval and family tracing and reunification guidelines and forms.
Giving the keynote speech at the ceremony, the Hon. Vice President Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh said the launching of the noteworthy alternative Care and Child Welfare Policies was significant as it will help in promoting the right of children and seek their welfare.
Speaking on the importance of the policies, the Hon. Vice President stated that the policies put together will ensure that the best protection of children are maintained at all times and that for the ‘New Direction’ Government, they will move further to standardize the provision of care and protection for all children and also to support families and communities in protecting their children from all forms of abuses.
He added that, it is expected that the documents will establish a solid basis for which future actions will be built with the solidarity of other actors to push the frontiers of protection in this country.
The policies, he maintained, serve dual purposes covering both prevention and response to children in need of care and protection and that with a very strong commitment from government and development partners to push the agenda to promote the well-being of children in this country.
Vice President Juldeh Jalloh noted that, there is no reliable data on the number and placement of children in foster or interim care by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children Affairs including the Sierra Police Family Support Unit and Child Protection Agencies.
He assured that the ‘New Direction’ Government will demonstrate its commitment in enhancing the welfare and protection of children through support for families in good parenting skills and livelihood including the popularization and review of the existing laws and other policies governing the affairs of children in the country.
Vice President Jalloh went on to assure the gathering that, under the ‘New Direction’ government, His Excellency has vowed to stand up for the protection of children and provide the enabling environment for them to live.
He appealed to all sierra Leoneans to advocate and work collectively to protect and promote the right of children who are the assets of this country.