Half of Nation’s Orphanages Fail to Register

Nearly half of the known orphanages in Cambodia missed Tuesday’s deadline for registering with the government, further delaying attempts to reform the country’s wayward residential child care sector, an official said on Tuesday.

A sub-decree ratified in September states that all child care institutions must notify the Social Affairs Ministry of their existence by February 28 or risk closure.

When only a fraction of such facilities registered by that date, the deadline was extended to Tuesday. But of the 641 orphanages known to the government, just 364 had registered as of Tuesday, forcing the ministry to push back the timetable yet again, according to Ros Sokha, director of child welfare at the ministry.

“We will issue an announcement and send an alert to the orphanages and let them rush to fill out the [registration] form before June 20, 2016,” he said. Orphanages that failed to meet the June deadline would be shut down, he added.

Mr. Sokha attributed the poor showing thus far to “trouble with forms,” declining to elaborate. He also urged journalists to refrain from reporting on the registration process until June.

Meas Bunly, a communication specialist at Unicef’s country office, said in an email that the agency was consulting with the Social Affairs Ministry on the latest deadline extension.

Mr. Bunly also explained that the registration process occurred in two distinct stages. The initial registration stage, he said, required orphanages to notify the ministry of their existence and submit “basic background information.”

A secondary application stage—the deadline for which was initially slated for on Tuesday—demanded more detailed information, and specified “minimum standards” orphanages would need to meet to continue to operate, Mr. Bunly said.

Such standards include keeping an up-to-date dossier on children and endeavoring whenever possible to reintegrate them into communities.

The country’s orphanages care for tens of thousands of children, but more than 75 percent of them are not actually orphans, according to a 2012 study published by Unicef and the Social Affairs Ministry.

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