Why Child Services cannot (yet) work in Nigeria

Wait a minute.

Embrace your imagination for a moment. Break the bounds of reality and picture something different in your mind.

What if Nigeria had a functioning and effective child services department?

Have you imagined it yet?

Okay, hold on a second for those who don’t understand how the child services system is supposed to work.

It is a social service system that protects children from abuse and neglect by most often than not removing children from their unfortunate circumstances and fixing them up in foster homes where they can enjoy love and attention and grow into mentally stable individuals.

This system has been put to effective use in many countries namely United States of America, The United Kingdom, Canada to name a few.

Nigeria right now cannot boast of a structured child welfare service system but imagination is free… so imagine a Nigeria with a functional child services department.

Picture a malnourished seven year old girl darting around vehicles in Lagos traffic – selling pure water in dirtied, tattered and threadbare pieces of rag put on her in the guise of clothing – at 1pm in the hot and blazing sun while her peers are in a classroom getting equipped for the future.

If given the opportunity to rewrite her story at such a young age and be taken away from her parent by the state to be reintegrated into foster homes where she would get the education she undoubtedly would need, would she gladly embrace it and desert her parents or would she remain in the cycle of their abuse, neglect and impoverished living?

How about if child services could come and get those twin babies often used by begging mothers to garner passengers’ sympathy and monetary support at garages and parks?

In a traditional child services model, children brought in by the social workers are usually kept in state custody until foster parents can be found for them before which their adoption processes would commence.

The foster parents get a fixed amount of money either weekly or monthly for the upkeep of these deprived kids as well as a sort of monetary compensation for their big hearts even though paltry.

Despite the meagre amount usually dispatched, certain unscrupulous elements can exploit the system by going through the process of parenting the children just for the money without actually giving them the care and attention that they deserve.

Eye service and window dressing would make it really hard for the supervisors and monitors from the child services department to really ascertain the condition in which the children are living in. The system could even open up new doors for the evils of child trafficking and exploitation.

Putting into consideration also, the current economic depression which has so plagued Nigeria, massive loss of jobs and ever rising inflation rates, it is perhaps, expected that child crime rate would shoot up.

Say Nigeria institutes a properly functional child services system, how will the system militate against these ‘bend-the-law-here-and-there’ elements that would foster some of the children just to introduce them into prostitution, trafficking and other criminal initiations.

Another problem to look at is how to ensure capable and righteous administration of the system.

It is no new news that every institution in Nigeria somehow manages to get ‘fantastically corrupt’ so how can this system, if initiated, be spared the scourge of money grabbing, greedy and unfaithful administrators.

While Child Services is an absolute necessity for a country like Nigeria where children are predominantly at the receiving end of abuse, a structured system is also necessary if ever a department is created.

Until then, one can only imagine.


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