Moving towards a national implementation of a family based care system in Malaysia through the deinstitutionalisation of children (DI)

Research into children’s early development indicates that even a relatively short institutional placement can negatively affect brain development and have life-long consequences on emotional well-being and behaviour. In line with this, since 2014, Hasanah has been working closely with OrphanCare on finding alternative solutions to children being placed in institutions particularly orphanages. This includes appointing international subject matter experts, funding key staff, supporting the development of standard operating procedures on DI that can be replicated across institutions, piloting reintegration processes.

In this regard, one of the key achievements in 2018, after five year long persistent advocacy especially with MWFCD was the presenting the Negeri Sembilan State Action Plan (SAP) on the Deinstitutionalisation of Children 2018-2022 to the Deputy Prime Minister/ Minister for MWFCD, Dato’ Seri Dr Wan Azizah binti Wan Ismail. The SAP entails a detailed analysis on implementing Family Based Care (FBC) in Negeri Sembilan as a pilot project (to be later up scaled to the entire country) which includes the financial needs; expertise and resources required; phases of implementation; risk and mitigation; monitoring and evaluation; and expected outcomes.

The SAP, if implemented in its entirety, should represent a major overhaul of the system where vulnerable children and their families will be provided with family and community based services that are high quality and meet their individual needs. Thus, separation of children from families will occur only when necessary and in the genuine best interests of the individual child, as defined by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

The development of the SAP, however was not an easy task especially given challenges such as limited local expertise and experience on DI processes. Overcoming these challenges, Orphancare was able to successfully complete the State Action Plan (SAP) for Negeri Sembilan in 2017. The development of the plan required research as well as the strategic review (of government and private homes) aimed to obtain a clearer picture on the ecosystem of the orphanages in the state, in order to provide evidence and recommendations to advocate for implementation of FBC in Negeri Sembilan and eventually across Malaysia. This was commissioned by Orphancare, in close coordination with the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (MWFCD) and the Department of Social Welfare (JKM).

Building on the momentum gained from development and thereafter advocacy of the SAP, Hasanah worked closely with the Ministry of Finance for the deliberation of the 2019 Budget in order seek an allocation for the implementation of the SAP. These efforts were rewarded via a positive announcement for budget allocation for Family-Based Care. More specifically, item 210 of the 2019 Budget states:

“We will increase the reach of alternative service providers to reduce the role of the government in providing non-core services. This will be pioneered in the welfare sector by working together with NGOs. For example, children from orphanages will be transferred to family-based care”.

Following this major milestone, further progress has taken place whereby a meeting was held by the Director General of the MWFCD with key stakeholders from other Ministries including Ministry of Finance, agreeing to allocate a team and specific budget towards implementing a pilot Family-Based Care in Negeri Sembilan in 2019 utilising the findings of the SAP and in close collaboration with OrphanCare and Hasanah. It is hoped that the pilot will enable all key stakeholders to implement a realistic, quality and pragmatic system for FBC, and from which lessons learnt and documented will serve as an input to a national action plan on FBC.