A Child Rights activist in Germany, Kofi Asante, has called for the immediate sack of the Gender Minister, Cynthia Morrison, over her comments on the recent Anas investigation “Torture Home”.
“This is crass incompetence, I was shocked when I read her interview,(read full interview on https://jesuisanas.org/resources/) how can the Minister be protecting the orphanages by defending them? “What did she mean when she said has been going there under disguise when the children were being abused? I see a clear attempt at cover up by the Minister. If it was here (in Europe) she would not be in the office,” Kofi Asante indicated.
Asante explained that since the incident nothing has come out from the Ministry quizzing “What kind of country is this where the Minister does not even issue a press release to update Ghanaians on the situation? The Minister should be ashamed of herself.”
Asante has been consulting with local child activists in Ghana who asked not to be named because of security reasons, and added more information: “The Minister seems completely unaware of the Care Reform Initiative that was set up in 2006 directly under her ministry to apply the Children’s Act and the Legislative instrument by making orphanages “a last resort” for children. Widespread research worldwide has proven that children do better when they are raised in families rather than in orphanages, which are after all a colonial import. Therefore since 2006, Ghana has been phasing out orphanages and replacing them with foster care based on the Ghanaian extended family system. Instead of asking for the jailing of the “Echoing Homes “ director and staff and launching a full investigation, the Minister seems focused on defending orphanages, and even asking for more to be set up. That’s a direct conflict with the law of the land”
Funnily enough, this same minister on May 13th 2019, launched several key Care Reform Initiative documents among which the “National Standards for Residential Homes in Ghana”, the “Standard Operating Procedures for Inspection, Licensing and Monitoring for Residential Homes in Ghana” and “Case Management Standard Operating Procedures for Children in need of Care and Protection”.
In her replies to Tiger, the minister makes no reference to these manuals which spell out the procedures professionally and in detail, with a view to closing down orphanages and settling the children with extended family. One has to ask oneself if Mrs. Morrison has even read the official state manuals she launched.
From what the minister says to Tiger it seems that she is unaware that the homes cannot be licensed to operate without an initial inspection. “We’ll come and look at the place and then you can start”, which is what the Minister said, is not an accurate description for a process that by law involves staff screening and a full formal evaluation against national standards. She does not mention the gazetting procedures at all and seems unaware of what is actually involved in licensing an orphanage. The minister seems not to understand that to “have the desire to help those people,” as she puts it, is not enough: staff have to be qualified, social workers have to be involved before children can just be picked up and put somewhere.
Mr Asante pointed out that the Minister has not defined which children who in her words “need help”, and yet in Ghana there are clear criteria to define which children “need help”: they need to be assessed by professional social workers and then the parents can sometimes be supported to care for their own children at home. Removing a child from family and community needs to be a last resort, a vital fact that Mr Asante is asking himself if the minister is even aware of.
It seems that for the minister “going round to see” means visits in disguise, whereas there is a clear protocol in the documents she herself launched six weeks ago, for at least two quarterly visits per annum that are announced and a total of four per annum that involve filling out extensive forms all of which are detailed in the above publications.
Mr Asante pointed out that, “The most disturbing this fact in all of this that the Minister doesn’t seem to be aware that worldwide, orphanages are considered to be harmful to children, and the Care Reform Initiative is not just about closing down the “bad” ones. The policy of the Government of Ghana is about transitioning away from orphanages altogether and towards a policy based on family. So a phrase like “but unfortunately we have a lot of people who need help, so we need even more homes to cater for people” is in direct contradiction to The Children’s Act. The various Legislative instruments, the Regulations and Handbooks the Minister herself launched and the conventions the GOG has with USAID. KidsOurFuture by the EU and then Unicef among other government partners.
Mr Asante said “A phrase like this one uttered by the Minister” So, if you bring these children together and we get people to help you, all you need is to love the children in return and then give them a good life” is enough to make any social worker throw up their hands. Love is not enough. You need proper long term financing, food, education and medicines, specialized care, and training and knowledge and monitoring. Children lives are at stake. We not should separate children from their families, and encouraging the setup of home in this manner is just irresponsible. All children have family, and according to research published by Unicef over 80% of the children in orphanages in Ghana have family they would live with if the families were supported.
“Throughout the interview, the Minister seems completely unaware that orphanages are never a solution and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and Unicef have variously insisted that Ghana hurry up in applying the Care Reform Initiative, and basically eradicate orphanages from the system. She seems not to be unaware of the international research that points to the fact that children should be helped to live with family and that the orphanages don’t work. The fact that she donated to Bawjiase, an orphanage that Anas has exposed as a violent and cruel, saw the issues around accountability there with her own eyes, and that Bawjiase continues to operate under her watch is incomprehensible.”
Mr Asante then called for her immediate resignation and replacement by someone who knows the policies in place and is aware of the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the requests that the international community has made to Ghana in terms of the responsibility our Government has to it vulnerable children. He called, furthermore, for the jailing of the perpetrators of these crimes at Echoing Hills and Bawjiase orphanages.