More than 3,500 children living in so-called orphanages in Cambodia will be returned to their families following a government report into conditions at the facilities.
The Ministry of Social Affairs Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation last week completed a study of residential care facilities in the country and found that almost a third of children in care should be returned to their families by 2018.
Of the 406 registered orphanages included in the study, 38 percent had never been inspected, more than one in ten were unregistered, and a fifth had no agreement with the government - a prerequisite for operating.
Vong Sauth, social affairs minister, said: “There is a large number of children living in residential care institutions for children, also called orphanages, and the number of institutions is rapidly increasing.”
“Not all of the children living in the orphanages are orphans,” he added. “Their parents just lack money.”
“If a child lives in a poor situation with their parents, we will give support with the assistance to numerous organizations. We will divert our support to the community. We will calculate the expense and subsidize the family. Being nurtured by the family members, the child will grow well.”
According to a 2015 report by the ministry, one in every 350 children lives in an orphanage, while 80 percent of these children are not orphans.
Deborah Comini, a UNICEF representative, said that placing the children back with their families was “a path to reform, to a broader and more sustainable childcare system.”
“Social workers and observers will be sent to monitor the families, and if the children are abused, in any form, they will be sent to a safe place.”