CERI works with leaders to protect thousands of orphans

Children advocacy India

A few weeks ago, while the western world slept, the government of India ordered 250,000 children to be taken out of orphanages and placed in homes with whatever family they had left. This was done without the time needed for preparation or support. The results could be devastating.

Ian Forber-Pratt, Director of Global Advocacy at Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI), took part in a webinar last week to address this exact issue, hosted by the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO).

The webinar, titled “Rapid Return of Children as a Result of COVID-19,” was a two-part series that addressed a coalition of around 200 advocates for orphans and children in institutional care around the world.

The event was both timely and necessary as, following the onset of COVID-19, many international governments took drastic measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Victims of such measures included the children living in orphanages and institutions, ordered to be returned to their closest family members with, in some cases, as little as two weeks to prepare.

The purpose of Ian’s discussion was to acknowledge the complexity of the situation and come up with reasonable and real solutions that could be put in place to give children a better chance at thriving in these emergency circumstances. Taking children out of institutional settings can prove dangerous as conditions vary but can include abuse, human trafficking, and other dangerous situations.

We have tens of thousands of children around the world that are in an unsafe position due to rapid return,” Ian said. He referenced a real case as an example, where a young girl had been sent back to her family and now faces the possibility of child marriage and the struggles of poverty and hunger.

Faced with a tough and unpredictable situation like the one brought on by governments’ response to COVID-19, Ian prescribed honest communication as the best solution. From staff to children to families, Ian reiterated that keeping the truth from anyone in hopes of having time to build a plan would only backfire, creating trauma and distrust in the long term. Instead, caregivers and leaders must be honest when they don’t know what’s going to happen next, and can find unity in a shared situation, he contended.

Ian was joined in CAFO’s webinar series by colleagues Mandy Howard, Nicole Wilke and Philip Goldman, each describing the situation through a blend of personal experience and research and suggesting the best next steps for the advocacy of an uncertain population in an uncertain time.

Learn the practical steps for responding to rapid return mandates.

CERI proposes strategies for ensuring South Asian children grow in families

South Asia is home to 25% of the world’s population. The region’s cultural complexity, as well as socio-economic and human rights challenges, prevent millions of vulnerable children from being raised in families. Instead, many of them live in religious or governmental institutions, which are opaque to community life and detrimental to healthy child development.  

The new publication titled A Review of the Literature on Institutionalization and Child Protection Reform in South Asia” reviewed the child protection policies and practices of all eight countries that are part of South Asia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. With personal and program implementation experience from India and Sri Lanka, CERI staff have identified the gaps and formulated three strategies that could offer millions of children the chance to live with a loving family.

A Review of the Literature on Deinstitutionalisation and Child Protection Reform in South Asia

  1. A regional approach to deinstitutionalization will empower researchers to produce evidence that might be applicable to more than one country in the region, moving the reform needle forward for several countries at the same time.       
  2. Decentralized reform implementation would allow larger countries, like India or Pakistan, to make faster progress on the reform and keep its states accountable for their outcomes.
  3. South Asia has to capitalize on its traditional alternative care practices, such as informal foster care, and include them into the overall reform strategy as solutions.

Read the strategies that could offer millions of children a loving family.

Memory Box Project in South Africa


Country: South Africa
Implementation period: 2008-2011
Total beneficiaries: 5,835 orphan & vulnerable children
Total budget: $1,800,000
*Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) 

Rampant rates of HIV-infection and death by AIDS have left millions of children completely orphaned across South Africa. Some of them had only one living biological parent, rendering them vulnerable and at risk of poverty and human trafficking. Given the urgent need across Africa for psychosocial intervention that nurtures resilience and identity in OVC (orphaned and vulnerable children), this PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) memory work project aspired to scale-up what was previously mostly a localized, university research-based community outreach initiative.  

CERI, in partnership with the Sinomlando Centre for Oral History and Memory Work in Africa, School of Religion and Theology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, implemented the Memory Box Project. The project was carried out from 2008 to 2011 with the aim of delivering psycho-social rehabilitation and resiliency training to caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children throughout South Africa. CERI reached six provinces in the country: Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and North West. 


  1. Train 135 Memory Trainers (MTs)
  2. Train 2,000 Memory Facilitators (MFs)
  3. Reach 3,700 OVC

The project goal was to implement a national scale-up of memory work training for staff and volunteers of OVC service providers in South Africa. Memory work seeks to create and nurture a “safe place” where previously silenced family memories can be shared between adults and children without risk of stigmatization or fear of disclosure. The memory-box methodology is a family-centered psychosocial intervention which facilitates intergenerational dialogue among immediate and extended family members. The purpose of the intervention was to enhance resilience and nurture identity in orphans and vulnerable children, particularly those who have lost parents or primary caregivers to AIDS in South Africa. Resilience can be defined as a child’s ability and capacity to recover his/her well-being and life potential in spite of suffering through one or more life misfortunes.

Read the full report on the Memory Box Project in South Africa

CERI 15 Year Report

CERI 2001-2016 Activity Report

This is a timeline of Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI) programs from 2001 to 2016 and includes the history and quantitative impact.

Celebrating 15 Years of Restoring Children’s Lives

Microenterprise Development Program

India Family

Country: Sri Lanka
Implementation period: 2008-2014
Total beneficiaries: 60 rural families
Total budget: $10,000 

The alleviation of poverty was and continues to be one of the prime objectives of the Government of Sri Lanka. However, the Government faces challenges regarding the creation of appropriate and profitable employment opportunities for the growing labor force in the rural part of the country. Since it has been demonstrated over and over again, and is now nearly universally accepted, that micro-financing is an effective tool in creating employment opportunities, CERI set out to establish its own Micro-Enterprise Development (MED) loan program in Sri Lanka.

Program implementation started in 2008. CERI provided micro-loans to foster parents seeking to start or improve their own entrepreneurship activities. A subsidiary group of the MED program aimed primarily at female beneficiaries was named the “Women’s Small Group” and set out to empower foster mothers with the financial means to produce a sustainable income that would help them care for foster children. This was particularly beneficial for rural Sri Lankan widows, who are often the sole providers of income for their foster children. The main goal of the MED program was to increase foster families’ incomes and allow the opportunity for sustainable self-employment. Through the MED program, individuals would get loans with small interest rates that they would then pay back in installments in accordance to the initial loan amount. These funds enabled many individuals to expand their self-employment opportunities, grow their own enterprises, and increase their incomes. A total of 60 Sri Lankan families received micro-loans and benefitted greatly from these small investments.  

Loans offered through MED ranged from 3,000 LKR (Sri Lankan rupees) to 150,000 LKR, approximately $20 to $1,000. Through this system, many foster families developed their own sets of skills and were able to making a living out of various activities, including fishing, poultry farming, piggery, pottery-making, sewing, cooking food, starting and running small grocery shops, rice paddy cultivating, vegetable cultivation, tailoring, and packing food items like chili powder. CERI provided its MED beneficiaries with various resources, including training in self-employment skills, guidance on loan utilization, and links to support groups amongst foster parents. Oftentimes loans went towards improving the foster parents’ skills related to their own enterprises, or they were invested in equipment that made their small businesses more efficient and more profitable. The Women’s Small Group program changed many foster mothers’ lives for the better by not only helping to cover basic needs but also for providing these women with the means for sustainable self-sufficiency.