Host families for children at risk
Worldwide experience indicates that institutional care is generally harmful for the growth and development of all children and particularly so for children under five. Furthermore, institutional childcare is more expensive and less beneficial per child compared to more inclusive approaches designed to support children within families. As a result there was an increasing willingness to establish alternatives to institutional care in a growing number of countries in the developing world.
Since 2009, Terre des hommes has been involved in the development of family-based alternative care with a specific focus on the development of formal foster care in six countries – Nepal, Haiti, Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Myanmar. At the time of Tdh entry into the development of formal foster care in developing countries, there were no other actors involved in this area of work.
Providing a family setting
In a foster family, a child is able to grow up in a protective setting. We improve the situation as well as the vulnerable child’s ability to protect him or herself if faced with exploitation, trafficking or abuse. The child’s integration in a protective living environment also helps his or her psychosocial rehabilitation through personalised support by social workers. Because the child’s own participation remains at the heart of our activity, both the families and social workers are given specific training to include the child in all decisions affecting him or her.
Strengthening the systems of protection
Our project is based on strengthening the entire protection system. We create synergies between the community and the institutional protection actors by giving them training and making them more aware of the specific issues of children at risk. In Benin, for example, in 2017, actors in governmental departments received training on the Children’s Code and the National Policy for Protection. The same year in Nigeria, actors in protection saw their powers improved for the management of four psychosocial spaces for children in difficult situations.
Long-term impact and a concept adaptable to various situations
Our ‘Host Families’ project is designed to have a long-term impact. In Benin and in Myanmar it is being implemented on a national level. This gratifying result establishes our activity by recognising the ‘Host Families’ project as an effective alternative to institutional care for vulnerable children. Innovative and dynamic, this project has great potential: versatile in each context encountered, it can affect children facing difficult situations in various contexts such as emergencies or conflict, when young people lose contact with their family and find themselves alone. In this way, the host families can temporarily meet their needs and give them a safe environment until a lasting solution is found.