Both Ends Believing (BEB) is a non-profit on mission to use technology and partnerships to help create a world where every child has a family. That’s a lofty vision, but this week I was able to see this become a reality when I joined our team in Santo Domingo and we met with our country partner, CONANI, the agency responsible for vulnerable children in the Dominican Republic (DR).
The DR was the first country to move into production with Children First software (CFS), the application we developed to register each child and put them on a path to a family. They’ve now created an electronic record for 100% of the children living in government and non-profit children’s homes. It seems like a basic thing, but they are the first we know of, in the developing world, to have laid this electronic foundation for child care, and it is already having a major impact. The head of adoptions for the DR told us the number of adoptions have tripled since their implementation of CFS in 2018.
Many of these adoptions are in a category called “kinship care,” where the children had been removed from their homes after a traumatic event in their immediate family, but options exist for them to be adopted by members of their extended family. For those without an extended family option, they can now be more easily adopted by DR families that want to start or grow a family. I had the chance to see some of these prospective parents waiting to be interviewed by CONANI, and it was encouraging to know that soon they would have a child of their own to love and care for. These placements have been transparent and are happening far faster than in the past, and CONANI believes the pace is going to continue to accelerate this year and beyond.
We also had a chance to visit a Hogar de Paso (government-owned children’s home) where all the girls in the home were victims of sexual abuse or sex trafficking. The staff there, who cares for these children and helps them to re-build their lives, was using another component of CFS to investigate the abuse, gather all the information, and coordinate their activities. These types of situations require a great deal of interaction with law enforcement, prosecutors and the courts, and CONANI is now able to operate with complete electronic records documenting the steps that have been taken to reach the best recommendation for each of these young girls.
Towards the end of the week I also had the opportunity to participate in discussions with partners (non-profit organizations, like BEB) that can work alongside these children after placement in a family. BEB’s vision is that the CFS system would act as an electronic web, connecting all the organizations working on behalf of these children. Once placed, our hope, and CONANI’s, is that these partner NGOs would focus their services on these children in order to ensure the newly-formed family is successful and thriving. We met with the DR national directors of Buckner International and International Justice Mission, and both welcomed the opportunity to use their expertise and resources in these situations. These conversations are in early stages but we are optimistic this will create an electronic, end-to-end system of care that will be an example of what is possible for other countries in Latin America and the world.
There’s more to come – CONANI is now underway utilizing CFS for foster care, foster-to-adopt, and a “fast-track” to adoption for children in their care with special needs. We expect each of these pilot programs to be completed this year and once they’ve analyzed their results, to expand into full production. We recognize the Dominican Republic is a small country and we still have a long way before we can declare victory. But our vision for every child to have a family, and we are seeing now that our technology and empowering partnerships, can make that dream a reality.
Finally, none of this happens without the partnership of those who give and support our work at BEB. We’re able to do this work at no cost to our country partners because of our financial partners. I hope this recap of the week in the DR helps you see the tremendous impact your gifts are having in the lives of these children.