RESEARCH ON THE INSTITUTIONAL CARE OF CHILDREN
The purpose of this section is to give a brief overview of the key findings of academic research into the effects of institutional care for vulnerable children. Studies that used scientific sampling techniques were selected, including standardized measuring tools, comparison groups, and long-term tracking of subjects. The included literature review examines studies on children served by group care, outcomes, cost, and policy implications. Other literature reviews examine mental health implications of group care.
Early studies documented the adverse effects that long-term institutional care had on young children’s emotional, social, and cognitive development (Goldfarb, 1945; Bowlby, 1951; Provence & Lipton, 1962; Spitz, 1965). Today, studies continue to affirm that orphanage care is an unsatisfactory option for young children who cannot remain with their own families.
Serious questions remain unanswered about the suitability of institutional care for foster children and youth. Child welfare researchers and professionals have observed that residential treatment or group care of foster children is best used sparingly for children with serious problems, preferably for time-limited periods. Studies note that group care placement criteria remain ill-defined and inconsistently applied. The questions, “How long?” and “What type of treatment for whom?” have yet to be answered. Future group care research should use standardized measures, large comparison groups, and statistical analysis. Treatment variables and their effect on residents with different conditions and needs should be isolated and followed over time.
“Residential care is now seen as an unsatisfactory long-term option when children cannot be looked after by their own parents. Stable placement through adoption or fostering is much preferred in order that a child may have a chance to form the long-term affectionate relationships that are now generally seen as important for normal social development.” (David Quinton)
“In the long-term, institutionalization in early childhood increases the likelihood that impoverished children will grow into psychiatrically impaired and economically unproductive adults.” (Frank, Klass, Earls, and Eisenberg)
“Even holding conduct disorder in childhood constant, the fact of being reared in an institution (a variable that indexed a range of adversities) increased the risk of pervasive social dysfunction in adult life.” (Zoccolillo, Pickles, Quinton, and Rutter)
“The children we interviewed did not like living in institutions, and their comments included criticism of institutions for the absence of some essential qualities of parental care. The children clearly preferred other forms of surrogate care, which scored considerably higher on those prized qualities. Their comments indicated a wide gap between the blue-print for institutions found in professional writing and the reality of institutions as the children perceived it.” (Malcolm Bush)
“This review indicates that there is virtually no evidence to indicate that group care enhances the accomplishments of any of the goals of child welfare services: it is not more safe or better at promoting development, it is not more stable, it does not achieve better long-term outcomes, and it is not more efficient as the cost is far in excess of other forms of care.” (Richard Barth)
The following diagram demonstrates how institutional care of children actually mirrors the practice of child traffickers.
CHALLENGES IN IMPLEMENTATION
Many organizations have adopted an institutional approach to child care, leading to development thousands of orphanages and children’s homes. Several factors make community leaders hesitant to embrace this approach. Being familiar with these hurdles will better equip you to address these concerns.
“We have never done it that way.”
Although it is true that organizations in the ‘developing’ world have adapted an almost exclusive institutional approach to helping abandoned and orphaned children, this should not be understood as the traditional approach. Rather, the more ‘natural’ course is that abandoned children are integrated into another family in the community. Although institutional care is dominant, it is not the logical approach.
“What about ethnic/cultural/socio-economic differences?”
It may challenging for a family that has been influenced by societal norms governing how certain ethnic/cultural/socio-economic groups interact or do not interact to integrate a child of another social group into their family. An example of this is the caste system in South Asia. We attempt to place children with caregivers who have similar language and culture. However, other socially/religiously defined barriers between one individual and another should not determine placement.
“The caregivers will use the children as servants!”
Although it may be common practice in some countries for families to use needy children as domestic servants, there is no danger of this happening in the Global Family system for family care. The training of caregivers along with ongoing house visits and reports ensures that the children are cared for in the highest possible standard and enjoy the same day-to-day benefits as natural born children.
“What about legal status?”
There are varying laws governing adoption, guardianship, and inheritance around the world. Our job is to work with caregivers and make a legal, comfortable arrangement. Generally, caregivers start with a legal guardianship arrangement where no inheritance rights are given. Later on, if the caregivers wish to have a higher legal bond, we provide assistance as necessary.
GLOBAL FAMILY DISTINCTIVES
1. Background Checks
A home study and background check on each child is undertaken to ensure that no pre-existing family option is available.
2. Primary Caregivers
The relationships that children have with primary volunteer caregivers foster significant positive emotional and psychological results. Therefore, caregivers should work out of a sense of compassion and call rather than for financial benefit.
Caregivers commit to long-term service so that children do not have to suffer the trauma of continual re-bonding with parental figures. When a caregiving unit is established it is kept together until the children grow to adulthood without adding or removing siblings.
4. Unit Size
Each family unit should house no more than ten children and should have its own sleeping, bathing, eating and socializing spaces as well as a separate, designated caregiver.
5. Quality Care
Each child should receive individual care and attention. Both the spirit as well as the daily routine of the home should reveal a fun, loving, nurturing environment where children receive structure, encouragement, praise, consistency and good role models from their caregivers and older siblings. Children should also receive adequate levels of nutrition, education and health care.