Do not kill or abandon children:
Give them to the Probation and Child Care Services Department –
Extracts from an exclusive interview conducted with the Probation and
Child Cares Services Commissioner Sarath Abeygunawardana. Here he talks
about IDP children, adopting children, children staying in orphanages
and the society’s responsibility towards children.
Probation and Child Care Services
Commissioner Sarath Abeygunawardena. Picture by Sudath
Q: What is the latest situation of the internally displaced children
staying in welfare villages?
A: At the moment there are about 30,000 children under the age of 18
staying in welfare villages and transit centres and around 850 of them
have lost one or both parents. The Probation and Child Care Services
Department and Provincial Departments hold the responsibility for these
At the moment these children stay in the welfare villages and transit
camps with their relatives. The Department identified the children
living among IDPs with the assistance of Probation and Child Care
Services Department, Vavuniya and arrangements will be made to register
all these children and gather data on them. Counseling has been provided
to them. Arrangements have also been made to raise awareness on
preventing child exploitation in welfare villages.
The children will not be separated from their relations because these
children need guardians and they are safe with them. At a later stage
the Department will identify the `fit persons’ (from the relatives whom
the children are living with) and give them away (legally) to them in
adoption. The number of children who have lost one or both parents may
increase when the final calculations are being done.
Arrangements have also been made to develop a location at Vavuniya as
a state run children’s home in order to accommodate around 350 children
who had been rescued from two children’s homes located at Kilinochchi
and Vavuniya. They will be given professional counseling.
The Department has already provided 5000 school books, Rs.100,000,
school equipment, educational equipment to the children in welfare
villages and transit camps.
Q: What is the formal procedure that should be followed by a Sri
Lankan couple who wish to adopt a child?
A: There are about 5,000 Sri Lankan couples and 600 foreign couples
in the waiting list at the moment to adopt Sri Lankan children. Annually
around 1,000 children are given in adoption to local couples and about
50 children given in adoption to foreign couples.
Usually the children bellow the age of 5 who had been rejected by
parents and abandoned are given in adoption. The demand is very high.
Majority of the local couples consider many facts when adopting a child
such as skin colour, race, horoscope, background etc and this is one
reason that they have to wait in the waiting list for a long time to
adopt a child. A large number of young couples seek children for
adoption as they have no children of their own. The reasons behind this
situation should be studied.
But foreign couples do not consider such facts (skin colour, race,
religion or horoscope) when adopting a child. When local children are
given in adoption to foreign couples, the department obtains a full
report from a social worker attached to the relevant institution of the
country which the couple belongs to. This report includes the medical
history of the couple, social, financial, education background and all
the other details. Only after considering the report, the department
permits the couples to adopt the child.
The local provisions of the Adoption of Children’s Ordinance No: 24th
of 1941 and the amendment made thereto by the Adoption of Children’s
Ordinance No: 15 of 1992, as well as rules and regulations as laid down
by the `Hague convention’ on foreign adoption of children are applicable
to foreign adoption of Sri Lankan children.
Lack of awareness in society on this topic leads to various crimes
such as abducting children for adoption and selling children to couples
for financial gains. Such crimes can be minimized through raising
awareness. If a couple wants to adopt a child they can register with the
Provincial Probation and Child Care Services Department and make a
request from the District Court. Then they will call for an interview.
At the end they can select a child from a children’s home. Couples can
simply adopt a child from a family of a relation by making a request
from the relevant district court. Any Sri Lankan couple can legally
adopt a child.
Q: What is the present situation of the children’s homes run by the
state and Non Governmental Organisations?
A: There are only 22 children’s homes run by the state. The number of
children’s homes run by NGOs are around 400. There are around 20,000
children in both state and private children’s homes. The Provincial
Probation and Child Care Services Departments register and monitor
children’s homes run by NGOs. They carry out regular inspections to make
sure that such children’s homes run up to required standards.
During the past, there were some incidents related to child
exploitation reported from private sector children’s homes. But after
that no such incidents were reported. Such unfortunate incidents take
place due to lack of awareness and training for the staff. Monitoring
also plays a key role here. Most of the children end up in children’s
homes when their mothers go abroad as housemaids. They consider
children’s homes as a type of `care centres’. The second reason is
poverty. The terrorism existed in the North was another major reason
that had a negative impact on children. But such parents love their
children and never give them in adoption.
There is a huge demand from the NGOs to set up new children’s homes.
But the present Government’s policy considers children’s homes as the
last solution for children’s problems. Therefore the Government never
encourage setting up children’s homes. What the Government requests from
such NGOs is to assist the state to re-integrate children who are in
children’s homes at the moment. When the children who do not have
families or relations turn 18 they are being given in marriage and
provided with employments. The department also connect them with foster
Q: What are the other special projects and programs in progress?
A: Special attention has been paid on empowering children.
Arrangements have also been made to increase children’s participation.
In Sri Lanka `Listening to children’ is lacking. The department has made
arrangements to set up Children’s Councils at Divisional Secretariat
division level, district level and at the National level. A National
Children’s Forum is to be set up. This system will give children a voice
to talk about their issues. Now only adults talk about their issues.
Another new venture is formulating a `Case Management Policy’. This
will help to assist the authorities in the process of taking care of
child victims from the time of reporting the incident to the police to
reintegrating the child in the family/society after closing the case.
Case management methodology will be developed under this policy. This is
in the best interest of the children.
The children affected by terrorism will also be taken care of under
the department’s various programs. There are children who had lost
parents and guardians due to bomb blasts. The department has already
provided counseling and scholarships for such children.
Q: Do you have any special message to communicate to the society?
A: Yes. If there are parents, single mothers who cannot look after
their children they should hand over such children to the Probation and
Child Care Services Department without killing them or abandoning them.
The department can take care of them. Some persons are involved in
illegal activities because of lack of knowledge and lack of
responsibility.. They abduct children, sell children and sometimes kill
infants and put them into dustbins and drainages. Sometimes single
mothers get admitted to hospitals giving fake names and most of the time
the name belongs to the woman who is going to adopt the child. Therefore
the hospitals have been given instructions to check the National
Identity Card of the mother before admitting her for delivery.
A – The relationship between children and their parents should be
nurtured and strengthened. This relationship was very tight and loving
in the past but it has been affected at the moment. Children can be
protected only through strengthening the relationship between children