“Journeying Together to Transform Care for Children”
Fifteen Catholic sisters and colleagues from six nations met in Rome on November 28-December 4, 2022, to discuss new “Journeying Together to Transform Care for Children.”models of care for children, inspired by the vision of a family for every child. The sisters represent religious institutes and national associations of religious who care for thousands of children in Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Malawi, South Africa, and Sri Lanka. Joining them were Kathleen Mahoney and Dan Lauer, Senior Program Officers in GHR Foundation’s Children and Families program.
The meeting was hosted at the UISG offices by Sister Niluka Perera, UISG Coordinator of Catholic Care for Children International. CCCI supports Catholic sisters’ efforts around the world to reduce recourse to institutional care of children and encourage family-based care. It was the first in-person gathering of this international group.
The theme of the meeting was “Journeying Together to Transform Care for Children.” During the meeting, sisters shared stories, insights, challenges, and milestones from their journeys, describing the work of religious in their nations on behalf of children and care reform.
In these nations, as in many places around the world, sisters typically are among the largest providers of care for children in institutions such as orphanages and babies homes. The shift in favor of family care has involved significant change for sisters and their colleagues, including change in practices of care that now extend beyond the doors of institutions. Many have acquired training and education in new areas such as in social work, case management, child safeguarding, and family reunification. To ensure that they are consistently achieving the highest possible standards of practice, they also work extensively with data. At the meeting, they described the systematic approaches they are using to collect and analyze data to evaluate and refine care practices.
The sisters related that the shift toward family care is also a change for local communities. This includes new partnerships and new ways of working among local government, social agencies, churches, benefactors of institutions for children, and others. They emphasized the importance of communications with all stakeholders whose understanding and support are essential for advancing the family care movement.
Throughout the meeting, the sisters’ conversations reflected the complexity of the child’s journey between institution and family. They spoke of the need for practices and policies to ensure the child’s safety, protection, and well-being not only institutions but across all settings of the child’s care, whether in biological or adoptive families, foster care, kinship care or other setting. The sisters brought these and other topics into discussion during the week with leaders of Catholic organizations in Rome whose missions relate to children, families, and care reform.
On November 29, the group met with Gabriella Gambino, Undersecretary of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, whose focus is on pastoral care of the young and the family. The following day, Father Andrew Small, Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and Emer McCarthy, Projects Manager, joined the group at the UISG office. The Commission offers guidelines and monitors implementation of safeguarding throughout Church entities, such as dioceses, bishops conferences, and religious institutes. Sister Niluka is a member of the Commission.
Later in the week, the group met at the Gregorian University with Msgr. Peter Beer, head of Research and Development at the Institute of Anthropology, and Anthony Ssembatya, a Research Fellow. The Institute advances research on human dignity and the care of vulnerable persons and offers advance studies in the area of safeguarding.
The week’s activities also included two conversation sessions. One session, which focused on monitoring and evaluation, was led by CCCI’s Monitoring and Evaluation consultant, Nicole Moran, who also served as facilitator for the meeting. The other session, which focused on communication activities at CCCI throughout the year, was led by CCCI’s Communications consultant, Sister Maxine Kollasch.
The meeting concluded on December 4, after participants reflected on the week’s journey together and looked ahead with excitement to the 2023 gathering.