A call comes in from a woman located further north in our province. She describes a young girl of seven currently living with her maternal grandmother who is the caller’s mother as well. Her mother and father are dead, both from AIDS. An older sibling was HIV positive and also died. This can place quite a stigma on a child, especially in a village. All in the village know about this.
The call passes to our social worker, Gatin. The aunt fears that her mother, who is pretty old now and sleeps much of the time, may not have the ability to protect the child from sexual or other abuse from certain villagers, especially a young uncle living in the same house. This abuse is more likely, almost a certainty, because the child is thought to be of little worth.
The girl has probably been HIV positive from birth. Gatin and another staff member travel to the village, which is several hundred kilometers away to the east. They talk with the grandmother and meet Chin, who appears quite healthy, excited to see visitors and talks a lot.
The uncle takes Chin to school and provides some other care, since the grandmother has limited mobility. He drinks a lot and often entertains his friends where they will each take turns having the Chin sit on their laps, hug her, etc. The grandmother is worried about this, but is unable to protect Chin. She agrees to come with us back to Opportunity Village.
Once there, the grandmother spends much of the time sleeping on a couch while Chin, enthroned in the chair of an absent staffer, proceeds to take over the office, questioning everyone who passes her. We guess there has been no abuse yet. Abused children tend to be pretty quiet. Various appointments are made with the hospital and government social services offices. Another staff member is assigned to verify that the child’s father, who left the family years ago and lived in another area of Thailand, has in fact passed away.
The most important thing we learn is that Chin is HIV negative! This is good news for all. Had she been positive, we can still take her, since we have no strict policy against it. Certainly if a child already living with us is discovered to be HIV positive, she stays with us. If we know that from the beginning, however, it is often better to place her with a sister organization, Home of Hope, up in the north in Chiang Rai, which is better equipped to serve her.
Since the government has not intervened in Chin’s case, we must get the approval of all close relatives before we can take her. Another aunt objects, saying she will send money to her mother to help with the child and will take her herself if necessary. We find she is on her third husband, is known to have a drinking problem and apparently has no money for any kind of support. Still, as a private foundation, it is not our place to forcibly take a child from any situation, unless we see, and convince government authorities, that abuse has actually occurred. We leave it to the aunt who called to sort things out.
It turns out that Chin is remaining with her grandmother. We alert the social services authorities in that province regarding the situation. Will they have time to follow up? Gatin marks her records. She will follow up as well.
From social services we found that Chin was eligible to receive some government support. Of course we must share this information with the family. Did this influence the aunt’s objection? These amounts are never close to enough for us to make a "profit" by taking a child, but for villagers who, avoiding government supervision, can divert the money, it may be attractive.
This is an actual case from our work. We have changed a few details, insignificant to the case, its meaning or is impact on the child and society, in order to protect the identity of the children involved.