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LIBERIA: Some fake orphans reunify with their parents

LIBERIA: Some fake orphans reunify with their parents

Photo: Ansu Konneh/IRIN
Children at an orphanage outside Monrovia
MONROVIA, 7 August 2007 (IRIN) - The Liberian government says it has started reunifying hundreds of parents with their children who were placed in orphanages under false pretenses.

“Under the laws of Liberia orphanages are only meant for orphans,” Alexander Stemn, a pastor and head the Union of Liberian Orphanages, the umbrella organisation of Liberian orphan homes, told IRIN on Monday.

Orphanage owners had been taking children from their families to inflate their numbers so as to be able to compete for funds from international faith-based organisations, according to the department of social welfare at the Liberian ministry of health.

“We have been documenting the status of children in all of the orphanages in Liberia and discovered they were mainly non-orphans”, Deputy Minister of Gender and Development, Vivian Cherue, told IRIN.

Some parents willingly handed their children over to the orphanages, saying they hoped they would receive better care there than what they could provide at home. “They gave their children out because they did not have the financial means of feed and clothe them”, Stemn said.

Liberian authorities have so far identified around 1,500 children at orphanages who are to be reunified with their parents, Stemn said. “We have started identifying children’s parents and family members.”

“So far, we have been able to reunite 40,” he said.

Stemn added, “The Union, along with the Liberian government, last week shut down one orphanage home on the outskirts of the capital Monrovia as all of the 20 children there had both parents alive.”

Currently there are 125 orphanages in Liberia, with 33 in Monrovia. Most were ostensibly set up to cater for the many children who lost their parents during the country’s 14-year civil war, which ended in 2003.

“We are starting reunifying children in Monrovia before moving into rural parts.” Stemn added.

Parents to blame?

One parent who spoke with IRIN explained how he came to give up his children to an orphanage. “In early 2004, when I had no job and money to feed my family and no way to send my children to school, I got an offer from a manager of an orphan home to take care of my three kids,” said Eric Morgan.

“I had no choice but to surrender them because I had no means of supporting them. I knew the orphanage could better take care of them than I.”

Morgan, who was one of the parents recently reunified with his children, said he was now concerned that he does not have the means to provide for his children. “Since they returned home last week I have not even been able to afford breakfast for them.”


Also see: LIBERIA: Fake orphans to attract donor funds

2007 Aug 7