The crested crane is a symbol of pride in Uganda. It is both the national bird and the name of Uganda’s most popular sports team—the Uganda Cranes. There is, however, another organization with a national reach utilizing this symbol. CRANE, also known as the Children at Risk Action Network, is an organization based in Kampala, Uganda that utilizes the strength of networks to catalyze best practices in working with vulnerable children and families. CRANE consists of 134 churches, schools, and faith-based organizations (FBOs) that span the entire country. Members of CRANE benefit from a shared vision and support from the network. Collectively, the network consists of 3,462 professionals who are working with over 70,000 children who are at risk of neglect and physical abuse which sometimes causes them to run to the streets.
CRANE facilitates trainings and produces resources for Ugandan social workers, pastors, and other FBO and nongovernmental organization personnel. Network members utilize these trainings and resources to promote best practices and professional growth.
The Families for Children working group meets on a monthly basis to connect like-minded organizations and social workers to further their influence and better coordinate resources within their respective communities. By facilitating ways for member organizations to connect, share stories, exchange case studies, and encourage one another, CRANE provides an atmosphere where in which their reach will go far beyond that of any one organization. Mim Friday is the Viva Africa Director, who works side by side with CRANE to help build the capacity of local staff to create new solutions, develop collaborative initiatives, and monitor the progress of initiatives through to successful conclusions. She commented, “There is no one organization that does everything. . . . We need each other.”
Since the conception of CRANE in 2004 the staff have worked with 86 child care institutions in Uganda, sharing important research on the detrimental effects of residential care on children. Many of these care centers have since transitioned from a children’s home model and are now providing other types of care, such as supporting children in family care, temporary emergency care, and vocational training.
Before becoming a member of CRANE, Children Safe Uganda was home to around 80 children. After becoming a CRANE member and gaining a better understanding of the numerous issues surrounding children’s homes, they reintegrated over half the children in their facility into families and provided family empowerment programs to their community. This is just one small example of the positive impact of this unique network model. Since April 2011, CRANE members reintegrated 1,159 children with their families and provided them support during this transition.
Numerous local churches also participate in the CRANE network. With member churches, CRANE brings pastors together to discuss the theological and biblical foundation for family and underscores the importance of children in the Kingdom of God. This knowledge enables pastors to return to their home congregations equipped and energized to be vocal advocates for families in their own communities.
Mim noted that several of the Faith to Action Initiative’s resources have been especially beneficial to the CRANE staff in their work. In particular, they have used Children, Orphanages, & Families: A Summary of Research to Help Guide Faith-Based Action, which provides a solid foundation for those who desire to learn more about some of the detrimental impacts of the residential care model and why it is imperative for children to be raised in families. Further, Mim is excited about the newly published resource Transitioning to Family Care for Children: A Guidance Manual. CRANE is already discussing ways to implement this resource among member organizations.
CRANE provides a platform for the Ugandan Christian community to speak with an unwavering, informed, and united voice. They are putting into practice the wisdom found in Ecclesiastes 4:12:
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
By sharing a unified voice, CRANE member organizations who are advocating for and working on behalf of families across Uganda are better together.