KUALA LUMPUR: Disadvantaged from birth by growing up without familial support, orphans who age out of homes face more difficulties in trying to start their adult life.
The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry is trying to address this with a pilot project for a so-called “transit home” for orphans who have to leave welfare homes at the age of 18.
The home, established in 2014 here, houses six teenagers and focuses on training them to increase their employability and finding them a secure job before they leave the nest for good.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Karim said three more transit homes are to be built in Arau, Malacca and here next year.
“This is close to my heart,” she told reporters during a conference on adoption and orphan care here yesterday.
“When they reach 18, they have to leave. It’s not to say I can’t bring myself to let them go, but some of them come into institutions with siblings and they don’t want to be too far from them,” she said.
A Unicef report also found that Malaysian welfare homes were not “preparing children to transition out of care … to earn a living” giving orphans who age out a significant disadvantage in building their lives independently.
The current pilot project shelters 18-year-old orphans for six months and up to a year while they finish up their studies or look for work.
The ministry also has a partnership with Amway to provide workshops on business and entrepreneurial skills for orphans to make them more employable, said Rohani.
There are about 1,200 orphans below the age of 18 in nine Government welfare homes nationwide.
The ministry did not provide the number of orphans who age out every year, though Rohani said as children got older in orphanages – they were less likely to be adopted.
“People only want to adopt newborns or younger children which is why we need to help the older ones.
“The orphanage is their home, it is hard for them to move out after that,” she said. There has been a rise in the number of adoption of newborn babies with 296 cases so far this year, compared to 155 in 2015 and 112 in 2014.
Rohani set a target of succesfully finding 450 newborns adoptive parents next year.
Rohani was speaking at OrphanCare’s conference on Deinstitutionalisation of Children, a gathering of experts to discuss moving away from institutionalised government care of orphans like in welfare homes to more family-based care approaches.
OrphanCare Foundation chairman Tan Sri Faizah Mohd Tahir said: “The organisation was conducting a study in Negri Sembilan to identify the root causes of why orphans were institutionalised; be it because of poverty, disability, cultural stigma or for religious reasons.”