A network for child protection in Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone: phase 2 of the Home project begins

The initiative, supported by the Italian Commission for International Adoption, focuses on actions to protect early childhood

Date 08.01.2024

In Côte d'Ivoire, it is estimated that 86.5 % of children are abused from a very early age.

The forms of violence are often difficult to detect: violent discipline methods, physical, emotional, sexual violence. In order to improve the condition of the most vulnerable children, AVSI has launched the second phase of the HOME project, aimed at creating a network for the reception and education of minors in Côte d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone, with a special focus on orphaned children who, in Côte d'Ivoire, are 8.6%.

The initiative, funded by the Italian Prime Minister's Office - Commission for International Adoption, was officially presented in Abidjan in November, in the presence of representatives of the partners and institutions that will be involved.

"We work together to ensure a better future for children," said Akora Arahamanta, representative of the Ministry for Women, Family and Children.

Cerimonia di lancio di Home2 Costa d'Avorio
Participants at the launch event of the second phase of the Home project

AVSI's initiative to promote the general welfare of vulnerable children and their retention in natural families in Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire continues.

The HOME project, in its first phase, worked to systemise resources already available for child protection and to create new resources where institutional and regulatory gaps existed.

The second phase of the project started in November 2023 and will end in May 2025 and will place special emphasis on early childhood and related facilities, considering that in Côte d'Ivoire only 14.6 % of children between the ages of 3 and 5 benefit from a formal education programme.

The objective remains the same: to promote the general welfare of vulnerable children and their retention in natural families in Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire and to improve the capacities of institutional and non-institutional child protection actors.

The actions planned in Côte d'Ivoire:

  • training of the staff of the institutions and local organizations involved
  • provision of computer equipment to institutions responsible for assisting children in vulnerable situations
  • provision of medical, recreational, IT and educational equipment to the local organizations involved
  • monitoring of foster families that were helped to start an income-generating activity in phase 1

In order to support the capacities of organizations involved in the growth and development of children in early childhood, in addition to a material and economic contribution, a vaccination campaign and an anti-parasite campaign for children will be launched, as well as awareness-raising initiatives in Ivorian media against maltreatment, violence and abuse.

The beneficiaries of the project include not only vulnerable children and families, but also Ivorian institutions involved in adoption and child protection:

  • Direction de la Protection de l’Enfant (DPE) - Direction of Child Protection
  • Autorité Centrale pour l'Adoption en Côte d'Ivoire (ACACI) - Central Authority for Adoption in Côte d'Ivoire
  • Coordination des Structures Socio éducatives de Protection de la Petite Enfance et des Complexes Socio éducatifs (CSSPPECS) - Coordination of Socio-Educational Facilities for the Protection of Small Children and Socio-Educational Complexes
  • Centres EPR, Établissement de Protection et de Remplacement - Institutions for orphaned children
  • Centres de Protection de la Petite enfance (CPPE), des Centres d’Action communautaire pour l’Enfance (CACE)

The Ministry of Women, Family and Children and its relevant departments will facilitate the implementation of the planned actions.

The speech by Chiara Pira, from AVSI's International Adoption team at the HOME 2 project kick-off event

It is a great privilege for AVSI to intervene in the general context of the integral protection of children through international adoption. AVSI is among the top 10 Italian civil society organisations involved in development cooperation interventions and is the only organization that also deals with international adoptions, authorised by the Italian Commission for International Adoption. This allows us to have a broader vision of the needs of vulnerable children and to provide a more effective and comprehensive response.

International adoption is considered a subsidiary instrument in the field of child protection, governed by the Hague Convention of 29 May 1993. Adoption is the last alternative considered for placing a child in a state of abandonment in a family that can provide the appropriate care and attention to his or her needs.

The principle of subsidiarity commits us to implement international cooperation projects in the countries of origin of children, in order to enable them to stay with their families or with a family in their country of origin.

The family is considered the privileged place for a child's healthy and balanced growth. Through the HOME 2 project AVSI is committed to ensuring that every child can find a family ready to take him/her in his/her own country and, only if reintegration of the child in his/her family of origin or in an adoptive family in his/her country of birth is not possible, can international adoption take place.

However, the family is also a concept that varies profoundly from one culture to another, as does the concept of the parent-child relationship. What we have in common throughout the world is the conception of the family as a place of protection, care and necessary for healthy and harmonious development. This conception makes it possible to overcome language and cultural barriers and to legitimise the intervention of authorised organisations in their international adoption activities.

There are 49 organizations authorised in Italy by the Adoption Commission, charged with informing, training and assisting prospective adoptive parents in the international adoption process, as well as managing the procedures necessary to carry out adoption abroad, assisting couples with foreign authorities and supporting them in the post-adoption process.

AVSI operates in 9 countries as far as adoptions are concerned, carrying out about 20/30 adoptions per year. The fact that AVSI is an organisation that deals with development cooperation and international adoptions gives us the possibility, on the one hand, to intervene in the countries with which we collaborate to improve the living conditions of vulnerable children in their country of origin and, on the other hand, to work in Italy with families aspiring to adopt, sensitising, training and accompanying them so that they can be a real resource for foreign children in need of a family.

Although the difference may seem marginal, it is not the same thing to seek adoption at all costs instead of trying to work towards making a family a true resource for a child. The time we devote to accompanying families, through the work of our psycho-social workers, is aimed at this goal: to make families understand that it is not the child that has to respond to their wishes, but that they must be able to focus and understand what kind of resources they can offer a child. Adoption should therefore not be a search for the ideal child for a foreign family, but rather the creation of a real resource for children, who will already have to deal with the trauma of a change of environment, culture and relationships. The least we can do for them is to try to offer them the best possible family.

In Côte d'Ivoire, the reference authority in matters of adoption, national and international, is the Autorité Centrale pour l'Adoption en Côte d'Ivoire (ACACI); the framework has changed recently, as until 2021 this authority was an integral part of the Child Protection Directorate. Today, the two institutions work closely together, but the exclusive management of adoptions is entrusted to the ACACI.

In this context, AVSI began its collaboration with the Ivorian authority in 2008 and, since 2021, has complemented its cooperation activities in the field of child protection with the presentation of a number of families as candidates for international adoption, in response to the urgent need in the country.

We hope that, through this subsidiary tool, we can be a resource for children who just need to be placed in a family that cares for them and, in this way, respond to the daily needs of the more than children AVSI meets, for whom an intervention in the country of origin is not sufficient.

Cerimonia di lancio di Home2 Costa d'Avorio
At the project launch event, the first computers and IT tools were handed over to strengthen child protection institutions in Côte d'Ivoire.