Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Researchers Advocate Direct Donations to Extended Families Caring for Orphaned Children in African Nation

The New York Times recently reported that researchers at Boston University are studying the effectiveness of making direct donations to extended family members willing to care for orphaned children in their homes instead of removing these children to orphanages.  Some experts and advocates suggest that the orphanages are expensive and potentially harmful for children because the children are separated from their extended families.  Some advocates even claim that the orphanages are being built to lure financial donations from around the world.  "Researchers say donors need to weed out ineffective, misconceived programs, scrutinizing those that are managed by international nongovernmental organizations or governments but reliant on volunteers in villages to do the work."

The story reports that a study of African households reveals that the vast majority of orphaned African children are being cared for by extended families, and that these families receive no help.  The story is partially excerpted below:

The Home of Hopeorphanage provides Chikodano Lupanga, 15, with three nutritious meals a day, new school uniforms, sensible black shoes and a decent education.

Her orphaned cousin Jean, 11, who balked at entering the orphanage and lives with her grown sister, has no shoes, raggedy clothes and an often-empty belly. Repeating third grade for the third time, Jean said she bitterly regretted that she did not grow up in the orphanage where Madonna adopted a boy. Had she stayed, she whispered, “I would have learned to read.”

In a country as desperately poor as Malawi, children placed in institutions are often seen as the lucky ones. But even as orphanages have sprung up across Africa with donations from Western churches and charities, the families who care for the vast majority of the continent’s orphans have gotten no help at all, household surveys show.

Researchers now say a far better way to assist these bereft children is with simple allocations of cash — $4 to $20 a month in an experimental program under way here in Malawi — given directly to the destitute extended families who take them in. That program could provide grants to eight families looking after some two dozen children for the $1,500 a year it costs to sponsor one child at the Home of Hope, estimated Candace M. Miller, a Boston University professor and a lead researcher in the project.

Experts and child advocates maintain that orphanages are expensive and often harm children’s development by separating them from their families. Most of the children living in institutions around the world have a surviving parent or close relative, and they most commonly entered orphanages because of poverty, according to new reports by Unicef and Save the Children.

“Because there’s money in orphanages, people are creating them and getting children in them,” said Dr. Biziwick Mwale, executive director of Malawi’s National AIDS Commission.

For the full story, please click here.



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