Chann’s Story: Transforming Lives Through Foster Care

May 2024

Baby Chann with foster mother Chheng Ry in a village of Sangkat Sla Kram in the Siem Reap province of Cambodia. Photo credit: Family Care First

On World Foster Day (May 31), it is important to reflect on stories that illuminate the profound impact foster care has on vulnerable children around the world. In that spirit, we’re honored to share the story of Chann*, a three-month-old baby boy from Siem Reap town, Cambodia. Chann’s story is a poignant reminder of the critical role foster care plays in providing love, security, and opportunity to those who need it most.

On November 18, 2023, week-old baby Chann was found abandoned on the streets of Siem Reap town. A concerned villager reported the situation to local authorities. Upon receiving the report, the Committee for Women and Children (CCWC) took action by referring the baby to Kunthabopha Hospital for treatment of a cleft palate and other urgent medical needs, before notifying the provincial child protection working group. Chann was weak and in poor health, exhibiting signs of neglect and exposure to harsh conditions, such as stains, scratches, and ant bites.

On November 20, the Chair of the Provincial Child Protection Technical Working Group (CP-TWG) organized a case conference and tasked the Department of Social Affairs, Veterans, and Youth Rehabilitation (DoSVY) with further intervention. DoSVY then arranged for Hagar Cambodia, an NGO sub-partner, to provide emergency foster care for Chann. He was placed with a foster mother, Chheng Ry, in a village of Sangkat Sla Kram in the Siem Reap province on November 24.

“When I met this baby for the first time, I felt a deep sense of love. At that time the child was in poor condition,” said Chheng. “I am the one who volunteered to take care of this baby at the hospital, to help him improve his health and recovery. I want to see him in his future life living well and healthy.”

Chheng and Chann were provided with essential items including a pillow, mat, blanket, mosquito nets, and other necessities for the child’s well-being and safety.

“Although I am a widow and I understand the difficulty of caring for the baby like that, I am committed and willing to take on this responsibility,” said Chheng. “I don’t want to see a child being abandoned. Now, Chann is considered a part of my family. All of my family members love and care for him as if he were their brother, too.”

While Hagar collaborates with DoSVY, SASWO, and CCWC to trace Chann’s family, a social worker continues to oversee his progress. This includes regular physical check-ups with a doctor, treatment, and addressing other developmental needs such as bonding and attachment to his foster mother. He received monthly medical check-ups at Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC) to monitor feeding, weight gain, and prepare for surgery to correct the cleft palate once he turned six months old. AHC also provides formula milk and nutrition education to the foster mother. On April 18, Chann had an operation on the cleft palate, which was successful. In another four months, he will have an additional operation to minimize the pain.

Baby Chann with foster mother Chheng Ry in a village of Sangkat Sla Kram in the Siem Reap province of Cambodia after a successful operation of the cleft palate. Photo credit: Family Care First

“Establishing strong relationships and collaboration with government officials, hospitals, and NGOs is very important in finding ways to support children’s needs,” said, Case Management Officer Bo Nang. “I am extremely pleased to be part of this social work effort and cooperation. It brings me great joy to witness the clients receiving love, warmth, and protection from both their families and the community.”

Nang collaborated with government officers to trace Chann’s family, based on clues suggesting possible relatives in Kompong Thom province.  The family was located, and Chann’s biological parents, granddaughter, and an aunt of the child came for a visit in May. The family would like to bring the child back home, but DoSVY will need to conduct a family assessment first with Hagar, the local Social Affairs Welfare Office, and other relevant authorities to ensure all the conditions are in place for a safe family reintegration.

“This case study reflects how well the NGO partner and the sub-national child protection system collaborated in responding to the child in need of care and protection,” said Lo Leang, Deputy Chief of Party at Family Care First. “FCF utilizes system strengthening, knowledge sharing, and service delivery as approaches to ensure that children are cared for in a safe and nurturing family-based environment.”

Family Care First is a network of organizations that assists more than 7,000 Cambodian children to live in safe, nurturing family-based care. FCF is financially supported by USAID and Save the Children.

Chann’s journey highlights the importance of collaboration between NGOs, government agencies, and local communities in ensuring the well-being of vulnerable children. As we commemorate World Foster Day, Chann’s story is a testament to the importance of foster care in the face of adversity. Together, we can continue to build a world where every child, like Chann, has the opportunity to thrive in a safe and nurturing family environment.

*Name changed to protect privacy