Thailand is experiencing an orphanage crisis today with provinces like Chiang Mai operating hundreds of residential homes. Chiang Mai has the same population as Philadelphia, USA and Perth, Australia. At least 80 percent of children in these homes have a family; but sadly, poverty and lack of access to education pushes them to send their children away causing separation and other adverse effects.
Our vision to see every child in Thailand grow up in a safe and nurturing family will be made possible when families at risk of separation are strengthened and children already separated will need their families fortified before reunification. For children where it is not possible to return home, a family-based solution should be the priority (kinship care, foster care, adoption). Residential care should always be the last resort and a small family-like environment in a community.
Our “Keeping Families Together” program fortifies families through holistic development trainings, income generation assistance, educational opportunities, psychosocial support and access to health care services. At a fraction of the cost of supporting a child in an orphanage, Step Ahead is able to support vulnerable families.
Early Childhood Education
Research clearly demonstrates that to have a positive impact on the lives of children, we must start early. At Step Ahead we know the first five years of life are critical for brain development and healthy attachment for children. We also have seen that children cannot learn when they are hungry, or sick, or too worried about their home situation to concentrate.
Since 2005, Step Ahead has served over 1000 families with quality day-care at Step Ahead Child Development Centers. These centers gave vulnerable children bright beginnings preparing them for success in school and in life.
We presently run one center in a marginalized sea-gypsy village in Southern Thailand. This center not only provides affordable daycare for working mothers/grandmothers and vulnerable families; but also, a place for children to learn and develop.
Quarterly, we deliver training to the parents or caregivers on important topics like family finances, positive parenting skills, health & hygiene, and child protection. We strengthen the skills and capacity of adults to improve well-being for children.
Step Ahead partnered with Childline Thailand in our first foster care initiative to provide a family-based care alternative for asylum seeker/refugee children detained in Bangkok’s Immigration Detention Center. This initial program was called Born Free Foster Care.
In January 2019, the Thai Government signed an MoU with seven government ministries to end the detention of children. This amazing achievement created a pathway for mothers to be released and reunited with their children.
Step Ahead continues to recruit families to provide homes for asylum seeker/refugee unaccompanied minors (UAM). In addition to providing foster care for UAMs, Step Ahead has expanded its foster care program to families who can provide care for children due to abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Foster families are trained and equipped to meet the needs of children who are Thai and foreign nationals.
If you are interested in providing a home, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Freedom for Families
Since the Thai government MoU was signed in January 2019 to end the detention of children, refugee mothers in Bangkok are now eligible for release on bail to be reunited with their children. Freedom for Families (F4F) is a collaborative project. Step Ahead partners with Liferaft International and other NGO service providers to raise money for bail, but funds may also be used to provide initial support services to families re-integrating to communities.
In addition to general donations, specific donations can also be made to people who are already on our bail candidate list. If after releasing someone on bail, the government eventually returns the bail money, that money goes back to the F4F revolving fund.
F4F Committee is composed of key service providers in Thailand. Through a collaborative process, we determine who is eligible for bail, and who to prioritize using the funds for, with a focus on where bail will provide the most positive impact. For every $1,900 that is raised, we can bail out a mother and reunite her and provide them with critical initial assistance after their release.