Orphan Childhood Experiences & Environment

Group Home Settings for Orphans and Effect on Life Trajectories Around the World

There are an estimated 150,000,000 children who have been orphaned and millions more who are in need of care away from their biological parents. Yet, group home care options for orphaned children are being shut down with the assumption that such places are unable to provide loving, stable, enriching environments. A goal of global policy makers is that all children live “within a strong, loving, supportive family”[i] and it is assumed that such a setting cannot occur in a group home. In the meantime, numbers of street children are rising daily. Before we make negative generalized conclusions about a care structure and spend large amounts of money funding programs to close those options down, let’s try to gather some evidence about what has worked and not worked in residential facilities (e.g. group homes, residential institutions, etc.) compared to living with families. Let’s talk to people who were orphaned and needed a place to live about their experiences in different care settings before we start closing down all the group care options for the next generation.

school girls in cambodia

School girls in Cambodia

As policies are being rapidly put in place in low and middle income countries (LMICs) it is critically important to use evidence that is based on solid research to understand what the best care for each child can look like when resources are limited. We need to examine how we define and create strong, caring, supportive environments for those whose biological parents and family members are either not an option, or are unable to provide that setting. We will survey adults aged 20-29 whose parents both died before age 10. We will interview all of the adults from this group who spent at least 2 years in a “residential facility” and for each of those people, we will interview another adult from the group who was raised in a family We will ask about their lifetime experiences, the setting in which they were raised and their feelings about it and find out how they are doing today. In this way we will be able to compare childhood experiences and current life outcomes of adult orphans who lived in residential care in relation to those who were in families.

We need to raise $75,000 to start this study in one country. An additional $25,000 is needed for each additional country. We propose to start the study in Cambodia, then Ethiopia and Kenya. With sufficient funding, we can add other countries.

For more information please contact Kyle.Hamilton@chpir.org

[i] UNICEF. The child in the family. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). http://www.unicef.org/childfamily/index_24538.html. Last accessed February 6, 2012