Lack of willingness of families to claim teens at shelter 'worrying'

Children at the Kudakudhinge Hiyaa in Vilimale' watch TV. (File Photo/Sun)

State-run children’s shelter in Vilimale’, Kudakudhinge Hiyaa, has expressed concern over lack of interest in adoption of teenage children at the shelter.

Senior officials of Kudakudhinge Hiyaa were summoned for questioning by the Social Affairs Committee of the Parliament this Monday.

Speaking at the session, Kudakudhinge Hiyaa’s Director Fathimath Shiuna said the shelter housed children between the ages of 13 years and 18 years, none of whose family have step forward to take over their custody.

She made the remark in response to a question by the committee’s chair, Kendhikulhudhoo MP Ahmed Easa regarding the complaint the State’s adoption policy for children at shelters was too strict.

“We don’t generally get requests to adopt children at shelters. But family members do step forward to adopt the younger children at Fiyavathi,” said Shiuna.

Kudakudhinge Hiya’s Director Fathimath Shiuna responds to questions by Social Affairs Committee of Parliament on August 19, 2019. (Photo/People's Majlis)

Fiyavathi, the State-run children’s shelter located in Hulhuame’, houses children under the age of nine years.

Shiuna said that no family members had come forward to adopt the teenage children at Kudakudhinge Hiyaa, and that families refused to adopt children who have finished their schooling.

She said that children who live in shelters are initially put there on a temporary basis, but that many families fail to establish a protective environment for them even later on.

“The [Gender] Ministry does work on transferring the care of the children back to their families, but the situation on the ground is that many of the children – especially those between the ages of 13 and 18 years -  can’t be returned to the care of their families,” said Shiuna.

Children at shelters who reach 18 years of age aren’t released from State care unless a family member claims them or they get married.

Shiuna described the lack of willingness of families to claim the children at shelters as a major challenge.

Kudakudhinge Hiyaa currently houses 45 teenagers. Five of the children are currently interning at resorts, and four of the children are working at the atolls.

Kudakudhinge Hiyaa has declared the internship program it launched for the children at shelters two years ago as a success. It reports that all children who took part in the program are currently employed.

The Kudakudhinge Hiyaa was officially opened in 2005, and has housed 350 children to date.