Network offers orders help in reforming institutional child care

A nun is pictured in a file photo embracing a child in a nursery school at a shelter in Tel Aviv, Israel. More than 8 million children worldwide are separated from family care, with many living in orphanages or similar structures, said Sri Lankan Good Shepherd Sister Niluka Perera, coordinator of Catholic Care for Children International. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)

ROME (CNS) — Women’s and men’s religious orders have come together with a new global platform to promote ongoing efforts to move from providing institutionalized child care to supporting family- and community-based care.

Catholic Care for Children International, which is under the auspices of the Rome-based International Union of Superiors General, will be launching its new global initiative with a livestream event on YouTube Oct. 2.

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“We invite religious institutes with a charism of care to learn about this global movement from institution to family- and community-based care,” the UISG said on its website Sept. 11.

The new network aims to support religious women and men in ensuring that children grow up in safe, loving families or in family-like environments and supportive communities.

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Sri Lankan Good Shepherd Sister Niluka Perera, who has years of experience in ministering to families and minors as well as leading justice and peace networks, is the coordinator of Catholic Care for Children International.

More than 8 million children worldwide are separated from family care — with many living in orphanages or similar structures, she said, explaining her work on the Good Shepherd Asia Pacific website.

“It was the intent of God that we be nurtured within the care and protection of our families,” she wrote. Families are an integral part of sound development, ensuring each child lives in “an environment of love, nurturance and belonging.”

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The UISG, an organization of some 2,000 superiors of religious orders of women, representing some 400,000 women religious around the world, also released an online collection of resources related to child protection.

With the help of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, the Center for Child Protection of Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University and the “Telefono Azzurro” abuse hotline in Italy, the UISG sponsored a “Safeguarding Webinar Series” over the summer with hundreds attending online.

Links to the video recordings of the speakers and their PowerPoint presentations for the four webinars are now available on the UISG website and as a PDF.

“It is hoped that this format will help members of religious congregations, parish groups, teachers, child-care professionals etc. to develop short awareness raising programs in communities, schools, parishes,” it said on its website.

The webinars are available in five languages, offering “very valuable tools to raise awareness within your organization and to promote reflection and action in relation to this important topic,” it said.

The speakers were: Sister of Charity Nuala Kenny on “Safeguarding and a theology of childhood”; Gabriel Dy-Liacco on “Victimology and the relational safety model”; Jesuit Father Hans Zollner on “Safeguarding online in times of lockdown”; and Ernesto Caffo on “Care for children after lockdown.”

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