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What Is a Lawyer Doing on the Mission Field?

What Is a Lawyer Doing on the Mission Field?

Anja and Rene Gaona

What is a lawyer doing on the missionary field? Since its inception in 2016, Paraguay Protects Families (PPF) – which we helped start and lead in connection with the WWO global movement - came together as a network of faith-based children’s homes, organizations, churches and individuals to promote a movement of change in Paraguay within the local church, working with others so that every child can grow in a safe family, grounded on the father-heart of God and His mandate to the Church.

Children enter the legal child protection and care system very quickly due to violence, negligence or abandonment, but there are no actual social services in Paraguay to accompany these children, to work with their families, and find out if going home/to relatives is safe for them or whether adoption or long-term care would be the best option. 

In spite of multiple efforts and bureaucratic proceedings, the Government does not assume responsibility for these children; all care is through private charities, most of which is faith-based and is struggling to provide the basics. While foster care in safe and loving families by law should be preferential, no funding is provided even for this, which is why most children end up in children’s homes, far away from their relatives and communities. With the high demand of new cases, these children are practically forgotten.

This has been the case for more than 15 years in Paraguay and very similar in the region. And it will continue to be the case, unless practice changes and unless Government assumes their full responsibility. Over the years, we recognized that this is an area of great darkness, where we can bring the heart of the Father for the fatherless and give a voice to the voiceless. As PPF, we realized that unless we go the extra huge mile, helping Government tackle the complexity of the issue and the shortcomings of the system face on, nothing would change. 

As a result of the recent cross-government review on Paraguay's child protection and care system that PPF coordinated (Aug-Dec 2019), mandated by the 4-Government institutions who make up the child protection system, evidence was provided on the current situation and a cross-government implementation plan was designed, to respond to the URGENCY of pending cases of children, which on average are waiting almost 5 years in children's homes, meanwhile thousands more are in other mostly unsupervised forms of care, with kin or other families.  

The review’s plan also includes significant short-term goals to develop a more optimal process for the new cases of children, as well as long term planning to tackle much deeper issues properly. While now in hands of the Authorities to make important decisions to achieve better outcomes for children, we continue to focus on activating and equipping the Church everywhere in Paraguay as a network of carers for the most vulnerable and being a voice for the voiceless.