Exploration, curiosity, and fun are three words I try to bring together as often as I can in my classroom. This past science unit on life cycles easily brought all three elements together. At the beginning of this unit I converted an old box into a place where we could observe the changing stages of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.
The students and I enjoyed searching around the shelter for our caterpillars. The house dads knew good places to look and the students had fun trying to be the first one to spot them. During the unit we learned about what things a caterpillar needs in order to survive so we continually looked around the shelter for these necessities. Since my class meets inside the Duterte home due to the lockdown, the other kids in the home as well as the adults enjoyed watching the changes with us. During dinner most nights usually a few kids or an adult would ask me if there were any changes to the caterpillars yet.
It took longer than the students wanted but eventually we started to see some activity inside the chrysalis. It was an exciting day when the butterflies started to break out of their cocoons. All the aunties, houseparents, and even toddlers came to see the amazing event! There are so many things we can learn about God through science and nature. My students and I saw firsthand how intentionally and beautifully God made creation!
"If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing."
(1 Corinthians 13:2, NIV)
Make no mistake, your prayers, faith, and love have been moving mountains! Last month I had mentioned a deep concern felt by all of us at CSC; that the partial closure of government offices would make it difficult, if not impossible, for us to process paperwork and manage the cases of our children. Travel restrictions, quarantine protocols, and roadblocks (literally speaking) have hindered our team's ability to submit paperwork and gather needed information. The pandemic has limited the functional capacity of DSWD (the Department of Social Welfare and Development) and ICAB (the Inter-Country Adoption Board), affecting our ability to work with them on receiving referrals of new children and/or advocating for the matching of our current children with prospective adoptive parents.
But we have a talented and proactive team, faithful and diligent supporters (like all of you!), and a God that is always at work, moving us forward in our mission to serve and provide a loving, Christ-centered home for homeless Filipino children. Your prayers are being felt; coupled with your faith and love, your prayers are moving mountains! We can't thank you enough for being a part of what the Lord is doing.
Government offices have been opening with a reduced workforce, and new virtual procedures (utilizing Zoom and Skype) have been developed for us to advocate for our kids before DSWD and ICAB. And, in what can only be described as a miracle, there is now some movement when it comes to international placements, and even international travel, for prospective adoptive parents. At present, the Philippine government is prohibiting foreign nationals from traveling to the islands, with very few exceptions. It is amazing, and an answered prayer, that the national government and ICAB would consider the needs of prospective adoptive families from overseas, adding them to the list of exceptions for travel.
There are still many hurdles to jump. Local matching (that is, matching done with prospective adoptive families within the Philippines) is happening at a fraction of the pace that it was before the pandemic. We also have yet to go through the process of welcoming an international adoptive family and navigate everything that entails (getting them through roadblocks and checkpoints, etc.). Please continue praying with us as we make our plans and preparations, and PRAISE GOD for the doors He has already opened!
Last but not least, please pray for the people of Cebu. Heavy rains have already caused a lot of flooding in and around the city. It is also evident that the pandemic will reverse years of progress that the city, and the country, have made towards reducing extreme poverty. Recent reports show that around 2 million more Filipinos will slide into poverty this year, with estimates stating that 22.4% of the country's population will drop, or remain, below the poverty line. Pray that we can continue sharing the love of Christ in word and in deed through this unique time.
Flooding along Mango (Maxilom) Ave, near Gorordo Ave, in Cebu City on October 13th.
Flooding in Barangay Carreta, Cebu City, on October 23rd.
I need to brag about our kids.
Imagine having to stay around your house for more than 200 days, never being able to see anybody else, never being able to leave your yard. That's what our kids have had to do. Since March CSC has been in lockdown. This is the best way we can keep our kids safe as COVID ebbs and flows around the Philippines and the world. Through these challenging times our kids have remained positive and focused on their tasks. They have been good about taking up extra chores and tasks, especially the older teens helping with the toddlers and doing some cooking.
We continue to have our normal school days, just at the Shelter instead of the school. We have converted living rooms, gazebos (pictured above), and dining rooms into classrooms. None of this is ideal but the teachers and students have done a great job of making the best of it. I am so proud of them!
Enjoy some pictures of our kids, doing their best to progress in their academics during lockdown!
Space is something we Filipinos don't care too much about. To name a few examples: our houses our built right next to each other; there is minimal to non-existent personal space; shoppers are literally rubbing elbows at the biggest public market in the city; and passengers are squished inside a small jeepney.
But space is something our founders thought an important factor when building a child-caring center. During this pandemic time, where children are prohibited to go out of their homes, our children are still able to "go out" of their homes. They are still able to enjoy a game of soccer and kickball in our huge playground. Our toddlers are still able to ride their scooters on our driveways. Our children are still able to run around and chase each other in a game of tag. The space we have makes the lockdown endurable for everyone.
Employing 100+ Filipino workers is an evidence of CSC's commitment to the children it serves. This means we have people who can do the job for our children. This means our children can be children again and not worry about adult responsibilities.
But this lockdown gave our children the opportunity to step up. Older children looking after the younger ones, children cooking dessert and meals for the home, children leading praise and worship nights, older children taking on their responsibilities whole-heartedly. We are proud of the small and big victories are children are achieving.
Our houseparents live on-site. We require that of them so our children will have that constant adult figure in their lives. They have various tasks and responsibilities in the homes. Just like any other parent, they too have different parenting styles. Being in lockdown gave the chance for our houseparents to talk more, share notes, and give each other encouraging words. The houseparents supporting each other leads to better parenting in our homes. Happy parents equal to happy children.
This pandemic is discouraging at times, but we choose to celebrate the small and big wins during this time.
In May 2019, after 40 years, we the Social Work team, were able to move our case files and office to the building inside the compound of the residential shelter, where we were able to join the rest of the multi-disciplinary team, which has always held office at the shelter. Moving the office brought us hope of improving services by being closer to the children and the rest of the multi-disciplinary team.
When COVID-19 caused CSC to call for employees to be locked-in, two of our three Social Workers (Mardy and Glaiza) were able to volunteer to stay inside. Mardy and Glaiza saw this as an opportunity to continue strengthening relationships with the children, work more closely with the multi-disciplinary team, and dig into some pending files. Cris, the remaining Social Worker, worked from home.
This pandemic posed challenges in case management. We knew it was important to keep the children involved. During the annual Summer Activity Program given to the children at CSC, we were given time to have a "Short Talk" or focused group discussion on an overview of challenges in case management. This was conducted recently at the Medical Building. It was attended by 32 children, ages 10 and above. It was facilitated by Mardy and Glaiza.
During the Short Talk, the kids were observed to be engaged, listening, and interested in the topic as they discussed how the challenges brought about by the pandemic affected their future. The children learned that physical birth family visits were not possible with government-imposed travel restrictions and health safety protocols of CSC, but that connecting with birth family as approved, was to be done through telecommunication.
It was a time to affirm that the we and multi-disciplinary team were doing our best to continue to provide for the holistic needs of the children by adapting and learning new ways to deliver services. This could be seen by Cris calling houseparents and children on the phone, counselors providing telecounseling, and therapy services adapted to be home-based until therapists could be admitted inside the shelter after quarantine. Other staff, such as the nurses and teachers, were also locked-in to ensure that the service was available to the children. The children were encouraged as the social workers shared that they (along with the multi-disciplinary team) were always looking at the individual needs of the child and advocating for their best interests.
The children understood the challenges we faced to complete some requirements due to travel restrictions or safety protocols and that this affected other professionals and offices working on their cases as well. However, the children were assured that we were proactive in lobbying for them. Social workers were in contact with government offices, including the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Inter-Country Adoption Board. We were learning new ways to submit Child Study Reports and to keep connected with other professionals and agencies involved in case management. True to being advocates, it is at the heart of the social work department to steward time and services available for the benefit of the child regardless of the circumstance.
The rising concern among the older children at risk of aging out of adoption was discussed. They expressed concern about what their future would hold and if that would be together with CSC. It was explained that CSC had prepared for this by teaching the children at the shelter life and independent living skills. The Independent Living Program was still a residential shelter but with more in-depth training on these skills to help them transition out to the community.
We can imagine the inner turmoil social workers and case workers, nationally and around the globe, have at this time being unable to physically reach their clients or offices. Our heart goes out to the children and families who have lost this connection and keep them in our prayers.
Thankfully, at CSC, we have the option to be together with the children. We have options that allow us to continue in our ministry commitment to provide children a temporary shelter and case management. Being with them has allowed us to further think out of the box and see areas we can continue to serve.
This pandemic has highlighted challenges and blessings in connection. As social workers in service to the children at CSC, the time to be with them has been an encouragement to us. We are blessed to see how the children are growing, coping, and learning during this season. We are grateful for this opportunity to be able to connect and be readily available to them.