Safe Haven Foster Care in Cambodia
Earlier this year we introduced our newest foster care program for children in Cambodia who had been trafficked or abused. Our Safe Haven program quickly filled with children who had lived through the unthinkable, ranging in age from babies to pre-teen. Each intake form we received had a child’s story that broke our hearts, and we’ve all been so grateful to the compassionate people who’ve stepped forward to sponsor a child into a secure foster care placement.
One of the first issues we faced, however, is that psychologists and counselors are few and far between in Cambodia, and the limited ones in practice are all located far from the rural region where we are working. In order to help treat the children not only physically, but emotionally, we knew that we would need to begin training local staff and social workers on the ground. In September a team of trauma specialists flew to Cambodia to do full assessments and create care plans, utilizing both TBRI (an attachment-based intervention co-created by Dr. Karyn Purvis and widely used in the adoption community) and holistic therapies for children who are victims of violence.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we were asked to take in three additional children to our Safe Haven program, and as I was being told about the last child, I found myself pressing my nails as hard as I could into the palm of my hand to try and stop myself from crying. The child’s injuries were so severe they required hospitalization, and this precious little one was of course completely traumatized and shut down. I hung up the phone and sat in silence for a long time, before getting on a call with an incredible trauma specialist to ask what our first steps needed to be to begin a journey of healing.
After working with vulnerable children for 15 years now, I’ve learned that there is no limit to the brutality that some adults are capable of when it comes to innocent kids, but each and every time the horror is as fresh as the first. There is true evil in our world, but we can never stop trying to conquer it with love.
For many parents in the adoption world, like myself, we understand that sometimes “love is not enough,” as children who have suffered trauma and neglect have psychological wounds which can’t be magically erased. Their hearts are filled with brokenness and hurt, and so when we accept a child into our Safe Haven program, we do so knowing we are making a long-term commitment to bring security, reassurance, and stability to their lives. And we do so knowing we have a responsibility to create the most well-informed team possible on the issues of trauma and survival in a region where so few resources exist. Because of your support, we’re making that promise to the children in our care, and we are already seeing real connections and bonding taking place between them and their foster parents.
None of it would be possible without your help, and today I’m sending my deepest thanks. I’m so grateful we can now say “yes” when police and authorities call us about children who have nowhere else to turn. We know they need more than simple hugs and kisses, but I also know that as long as vulnerable children are subjected to profound cruelty, the need for people to step up and cover them with unconditional love and protection is essential. We can’t undo their past, no matter how much we wish we could take it away, but our goal with Safe Haven foster care is to do everything in our power to show them they are not alone and that love ultimately prevails.
~Amy Eldridge, Chief Executive Officer