At our Homes, we shelter children who are abused, neglected or abandoned. Some are of the opinion that, they should be showered with extra gifts, attention and basically a whole load of pampering to make up for the lack of love since entering our Homes. Others, on the other hand hold the view that these children should be treated normally and should not require any “pity” or extra “privileges”. We are running Homes that take up 20 children each. Making rules that apply to all can be very unfair for the older bunch especially at Shelter 2 (Teenage Girls Home) and Shelter 3 (Teenage Boys Home). So where do we draw the line?
Just as parents face challenges to offer the best parenting in the aspects terms of freedom, choices and restrictions for their children, we as an organization also face similar challenges. When we look into our policies and guidelines for the welfare of the children, we need to constantly ask ourselves if our worldview of ‘parenting’ our children is not only relevant but whether it is in the best interest of the children.
Gauging from the interaction with their friends and outsiders, we need to carefully guide each of our children concerning the different limits and trust they should put into their friendships. We have had a case where one of our children’s friends found out that he was staying in our Home and started to spread the news to the whole class. He was teased and laughed at. That hurt his self-esteem very badly. He actually contemplated suicide at one point.
Our guidelines for Shelter 1 & 2 are more stringent for obvious reasons. We had previous cases where perpetrators came to our Home to accuse us of abducting their child. Some even brought lawyers and politicians to see us concerning this matter. Others plotted to abduct their child from our Home. As though trying to make up for the lack of love in our children is not difficult enough, we have to be mindful of all these security and protection issues as well.
One of our biggest struggles for Shelter 2 is that we may be over- imposing the restriction on them. On the one hand, we are concerned about their safety and the potential harm that they maybe exposed to when they go on their outings. Yet on the flipside, it is not realistic to imprison them in our Homes every single day when they are not at school or at an event arranged by Shelter. We had girls from the Home running away before and some would secretly meet their friends outside. As we all were young once, we can and should empathize with their struggle in wanting their freedom to explore life and to just be with their friends. From a psychological standpoint, it is actually a healthy thing because our identity and personality are normally discovered from our friends during our teenage years.
Up until today, we still constantly face all these challenges and it is our aim to keep struggling through to offer the best we can for our children at Shelter Home.