For over 30 years, Mother’s Choice has stepped into crisis in the lives of vulnerable children, youth, and at-risk families. Our vision is to see every child in a safe, loving, and permanent family, surrounded by a supportive community. Whilst the current global pandemic brings uncertainty to all of us, we know that it is always the vulnerable in a community who become even more vulnerable in a crisis. Yet, we also believe that crisis can be a turning point in someone’s life, and an opportunity for the community to work together.
We can already see signs of the negative impact that Covid-19 is having on vulnerable children, here in Hong Kong, and across the world. These are triggered by school and playground closures, the pressure of home-learning and lack of routine, work and financial stress on parents, and the lack of support as families are separated during hospitalization and quarantine.
We also see some children who are isolated at home with abusive family members, disconnected from the safe adults who they might usually turn, to including teachers, medical professionals, and faith communities. With the world now connecting online, children are also exposed to more sexually explicit material due to the greater demand for child sexual images. Children may be victims of emotional abuse as a result of increased stress of parents, and are increasingly left alone as parents have little childcare support.
Child abuse can be physical, sexual, and emotional in nature, and exploiting and neglecting children is also a form of abuse. Identifying child abuse at the present time may be more challenging than usual – we may not see children to notice bruises or marks on their bodies, and in this time of great uncertainty, it is difficult to tell whether behavioural changes in children point to abuse or neglect.
Our goal at Mother’s Choice has always been to be a safe haven for vulnerable children without family and young girls in crisis who have nowhere else to turn. We have seen an 80% increase in calls to our crisis hotline in the past month, as well as increased demand for our residential child care and foster services. With the residential child care system already stretched to full capacity, it will become overwhelmed with more children requiring a safe, loving and temporary place to stay in the coming weeks. But we cannot do this alone. We need our community to be vigilant and to speak up when they recognize signs of child abuse so that we can keep children safe and support struggling families.
Here are the different ways that you can respond:
- Call to report – If you have concerns that a child you know is being abused or neglected, report to the police or ambulance in an emergency, or the Social Welfare Department. [https://www.swd.gov.hk/storage/asset/section/224/en/FCPSU_Leaflet_Feb_2018_Chi_EN.pdf]
- Get trained – If you are interested in learning more about how to identify, respond to, and report child protection concerns, for a limited period of time, Mother’s Choice is offering our one-hour online child protection training for free to non-staff and volunteers. Please contact email@example.com to get started.
- Open your home – If you have love, space, and stability to offer a safe and temporary home to a child, we encourage you to sign up to our online Project Bridge Information Session to start the journey to find out more.
- Donate – With financial challenges all around us, it takes even more courage to give. However, this season has shown us that helping the children, youth, and families we serve is more important than ever. Please consider donating during this time so we can make sure we can keep our doors open to those in crisis. [https://www.motherschoice.org/en/donate]
What else is Mother’s Choice doing?
- We are Open! – Demand for our services is only growing, and Mother’s Choice is still running all essential services, including our 24-hour Child Care Home for babies and young children, Project Bridge and Foster Family services, Pregnant Girls Services hostel, crisis hotline, and counseling, and adoption support. We are still admitting infants, children, and young girls into our care, and have put strict health measures in place to ensure safety for our clients, staff and volunteers.
- Child Protection Training – All our staff and volunteers have taken online child protection training over the past year to equip them to identify, respond to, and report abuse.
- Supporting our Families – Children in our foster and adoptive families who have experienced previous trauma and challenges can find changes to routine and uncertainty very difficult, and we’re here to support our families to be safe and loving homes for children through the journey.
- Keeping Children Safe – Through our membership and accreditation with Keeping Children Safe, we’re constantly ensuring our child protection policies are at global standards so we can ensure that children are kept safe in our care.
At Mother’s Choice, even as we step into the darkest moments of our clients’ lives, we believe there is hope. It takes courage to step out in faith to support the most vulnerable, and we could not do it without the commitment and support of our Mother’s Choice family of staff, volunteers, donors, and partners.