February 2016
"A community focus is useful also because children and families are not islands but need support from the communities in which they are embedded."

- Mike Wessells in 'Strengths-based community action as a source of resilience for children affected by armed conflict'
BCN Launches Care To Practice, a New Online Community of Practice for Eastern and Southern Africa

Better Care Network has launched its new online community of practice,  Care To Practice: supporting children's care practitioners in Eastern and Southern Africa.

This online collaborative is designed to support practitioners who are working on family strengthening and children's alternative care in the Eastern and Southern Africa region. 
Since 2013, BCN has been collaborating with a number of regional and national organisations and bodies to support family strengthening and improved alternative care for children in Eastern and Southern Africa through its Regional Initiative on Children without Appropriate Family Care. This online community of practice was developed in response to calls from the region for improved access to global and regional evidence and more opportunities for joint learning and peer support.

Care To Practice is a space for accessing and sharing global and regional learning and resources. It is also a forum that recognises the expertise of practitioners working in the region and the need to support the wider sharing and discussion of regional challenges, innovations, learning and knowledge.  By joining Care To Practice, participants will not only be able to connect with other practitioners from all over the region, but will also receive regular updates from the initiative. This will include easy to access research and learning, and the latest news and information highlights. Participants will also be invited to join our expert-led online events and webinars where they can engage with a range of experienced global and regional practitioners and researchers.

If you are a practitioner working on family strengthening and children's alternative care issues in the Eastern and Southern African region and would like to join Care To Practice, please email Better Care Network to let us know about your work and your interest in joining.


This edition's thematic focus highlights recent research, publications, and updates on the care-related issues affecting migrant and refugee children who are separated from their families. 

This article details the introduction of a livelihood project for unaccompanied children in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, which aimed at strengthening the household economy of foster families and improving the care of fostered children. The Dadaab refugee camp, established in 1991 to host refugees fleeing the civil war in Somalia, remains the most populated refugee camp in the world. In this article, the authors reflect on the program's work in recognising and building upon existing traditional clan-based family tracing and care mechanisms for unaccompanied and separated children, as well as on the importance of understanding the particular needs of specific groups of children. They discuss issues of insecurity and lack of funding that affect program quality and monitoring, and explain the challenges faced during the project.
A mobile phone-based community surveillance system was piloted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with the goal of identifying new cases of unaccompanied and separated children on a weekly basis. Over an 11-week period, community focal points reported 62 cases of separation across 10 communities. Most children were between 5 and 14 years old, and the majority of children had been under the care of their parents prior to separation. More than half of the children were unaccompanied, meaning that they were living without an adult relative or customary caregiver. The pilot results suggest that this method may be feasible and cost-effective and fills a critical gap in the measurement of separated and unaccompanied children in emergencies.
There is limited information in the child welfare literature on the circumstances and needs of  unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children living in the United Kingdom.  This article provides insight into the experiences and feelings of these young people by reporting the findings from  a narrative-based research project involving 29 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children age 12 to 21 from a variety of African and Asian countries, with the goal of exploring how these children perceived their rights while in private foster care in the UK.  The findings suggest that these children's rights are negatively impacted by the UK's system of monitoring and protection, and reveal the vulnerability of unaccompanied children in private foster care to neglect, material hardship, abuse and exploitation.

Through the voices of children, parents and staff working in the region, this report by Save the Children presents a glimpse into the struggles faced by refugee and displaced children and families from Syria.  The report highlights, among other issues, the high risk of family separation among displaced Syrian children. Family separation is sometimes strategic and intentional, as families take calculated risks due to security concerns and a lack of household resources, and decide to send their children away despite the risks that may result from separation. In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, initially most unaccompanied children there were sent from Syria by their parents. This was particularly true for adolescent boys who were at a high risk of recruitment by armed groups in Syria. However, with the worsening situation in Syria more recently, many of the parents have also fled to Iraq, which has resulted in fewer cases of separated or unaccompanied children.
Mental health of displaced and refugee children resettled in high income countries: risk and protective factors
This study involved a systematic review of individual, family, community and social risk and protective factors for the mental health of children and adolescents who were forcibly displaced to high-income countries.  The authors draw attention to exposure to violence among these children as a well-established risk factor for poor mental health, and also note the lack of research into predictor variables other than those in the individual domain.  The article discusses the many physical and mental challenges faced by the children during displacement and the long-term difficulties they endured after arrival.
Beyond Detention: A Global Strategy to Support Governments to End the Detention of Asylum-Seekers and Refugees
This report, authored by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, calls for a global strategy to prevent the detention of asylum-seekers and refugees in countries around the world. Among the strategy's three main goals is the call to end detention of children, which requires a new legal and policy framework, the implementation of the "best interests" principle, alternative and appropriate reception and care arrangements for children (including foster care), and the provision of age-appropriate information to the child.
Deportation of immigrant, undocumented parents of citizen-children born in the  United States is a practice that has caused the separation of families and a variety of negative effects on the children. This article explores the impact of detention and deportation of parents on the physical health, mental health, and developmental trajectories of citizen-children. In removal proceedings, parents must often decide to leave their citizen-children behind in the U.S. in the care of others, or take them to a country the child may have never known, which leads to the creation of "exiles and orphans." The authors argue for reforms in immigration policy and practice that take into account the highest standards of child welfare practice. 
This report by the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce identifies problems with the current  system of guardianship and care of unaccompanied children in Australia, which is inequitable and lacking in transparency and accountability. U naccompanied children arriving in Australia have been separated from their families or orphaned due to violence, fear and persecution. Upon arrival to Australia, these children receive  vastly different treatment and care depending on a multitude of factors. Some children are even sent to detention camps. This report summarizes six key problem areas and proposes solutions to improve the care of these unaccompanied children.

Understanding the Situation
Children who have experienced early adversity have been known to be at risk of developing cognitive, attachment, and mental health problems; therefore, it is crucial that children entering foster care can be properly assessed as early as possible. There are known difficulties in assessing children in foster care, for example, in finding a reliable informant. This study in Glasgow, Scotland, focusing on infants entering foster care, provides a unique opportunity to explore some of the issues relating to assessment of these children, including the reliability of foster parents as "informants" as to the child's development. 
Produced by Generations United,  The State of Grandfamilies in America 2015 identifies key state laws and policies designed to address barriers and to better support grandparents and other relatives raising children. The report finds that almost 65% of children in grandfamilies (or kinship care) live in states that have enacted only half or fewer of the key laws and policies that could support them. The report offers recommendations to help guide the development of supportive federal and state policies and services for grandfamilies. 

Trends in U.S. Adoptions: 2008-2012
This report, released by Child Welfare Information Gateway, presents data on adoptions in the United States during 2008 to 2012. Data for this report were obtained from multiple sources, including state courts, state departments of social services, state bureaus of vital records, and the federal government. According to the report, 119,514 children were adopted in the United States in 2012, representing a 14% and 15% decrease compared to 2008 and 2001, respectively.

The practice of institutionalizing abandoned or orphaned infants and children remains common in many parts of the world, despite well-documented evidence of the physical and psychological harms that result. Institutional care is associated with social and cognitive deprivation as a result of high child-to-caregiver ratios or highly regimented schedules with extended periods where children are left alone. The Bucharest Early Intervention Project (BEIP) examined the outcomes for children who were originally placed in institutions in Romania; these children were randomized into two groups and followed longitudinally, with some later being moved into foster care and others remaining in institutional care. This particular study reports on the brain electrical activity ("EEG") of 12-year-old children in this study, in order to examine the impact of movement to foster care after early psychological deprivation as a result of institutionalization. 
This article reports selected results from a mapping review of research on child maltreatment conducted in the United Kingdom between January 2010 and December 2014. The purpose of the review was to develop a typology of child protection research and to describe the features and patterns of empirical research undertaken recently in the UK in order to inform a future research agenda. The paper reports the maltreatment types, substantive topics, and research designs used, and it identifies a number of challenges for the field including the need for conceptual clarity regarding types of abuse.

Policies and Standards
This is a chapter from the new book, Geographies of Children and Young People: Conflicts, Violence and Peace (2016). While scholars and activists from multiple disciplines have reported on many aspects of orphan policy and the international adoption industry, there has been little synthesis of this information and its implications for global child protection. The chapter discusses how some individuals and charitable organizations have  encouraged the  growth of an "orphan industrial complex," which is jeopardizing child protection and driving the "production" of orphans.

Children who are affected by war suffer psychosocial distress stemming from problems such as family separation, displacement, loss of family and home, sexual abuse and violence, recruitment into armed forces or groups, trafficking, and HIV and AIDS, among others. Current research indicates the value of a strengths-based approach that supports children's resilience.  This paper analyzes how community-based child protection mechanisms are a cornerstone of prevention efforts, and views community-based action as a particularly valuable source for strengths-based support for war-affected children. 

This study used a secondary analysis of data from 2003 to 2013 to better understand the situation of children temporarily abandoned in Romania. It looked at data for children aged 0-3 years who were abandoned in different hospital units or institutionalized in public orphanages or public and private foster care institutions.  The results showed that, despite recent initiatives to prevent child abandonment and to encourage deinstitutionalization of children, the problem persists in Romania. However, the total number of institutionalized children decreased from 32,171 children in 2003 down to 18,793 in 2013. In addition, the number of 0-3 year old children from public orphanages has decreased steadily from 2003 to 2006, which the author attributed to measures taken to promote the maintaining of families and prevention of child abandonment.

The report discusses progress made towards universal prohibition of corporal punishment of children, including by highlighting examples from individual states that have recently implemented legal and policy reforms. As of the end of 2015, more than half of all United Nations member states have achieved a prohibition of corporal punishment in all settings (including the home) or are committed to implementing such prohibition. In total, 48 member states have now prohibited all corporal punishment and another 52 member states have made a commitment to full prohibition. However, there are still 150 states where children can be lawfully hit in the family home, 143 where violent punishment remains lawful in alternative care and in day care settings, 71 where corporal punishment is not prohibited in all schools, and 62 that lack protection against corporal punishment for children in penal institutions. 

Learning from Practice
New Series of Videos from  Child's i Foundation
Ugandan-based Child's i Foundation has released four new videos depicting promising practices in improving children's care.  These videos highlight an  early piloting of an emergency home (as an  alternative to an orphanage) to place young children into family- based care; supporting a Ugandan orphanage to  reintegrate children  with their families;  assisting an orphanage in  transitioning to family-based care ; and following the placement   of an infant girl  from foster care to a  permanent adoptive mother .

Child's i Video: Reuniting families with Care 4 Kids
Child's i Video: Reuniting families with Care 4 Kids

This tool was developed by ACCI Relief, a faith-based organisation, to guide those seeking to assist Christian faith-based actors involved in long-term residential care programs to make the transition from institutional to non-institutional care for children through family and community-based programs. The report is part of ACCI's Kinnected program, which spearheads the Australian Christian Church's (ACC) transition away from supporting orphanages. The report provides insight into what the steps and processes toward deinstitutionalisation may look like. While it contains a brief technical overview, its main purpose is to provide guidance on the  process of achieving buy-in from stakeholders. 

Community-based organizations for vulnerable children in South Africa: Reach, psychosocial correlates, and potential mechanisms
This study explored the effectiveness of community-based organizations (CBOs) in providing high-quality services to vulnerable children in South Africa. It used  cross-sectional data from 1,848 South African children aged 9-13, comparing children who were CBO attenders to those who were not receiving any CBO services.  The results showed that the children attending CBOs qualified as being more vulnerable based on most sociodemographic variables. However, despite their heightened vulnerability, children attending CBOs tended to perform better on psychosocial measures, such as showing fewer depressive symptoms and lower odds of experiencing physical or emotional abuse. 
This study was carried out in rural Arkansas (United States) to examine the feasibility and usefulness of a universal screening tool--the Family Map Inventory (FMI)--to assess family strengths and needs in a home visiting program using a combination of structured interviews and observational items covering family climate, parental characteristics, and physical and social conditions of children.   In this study, home visiting coordinators participated in implementing the FMI, and a total of 70 families who enrolled in a Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) program were screened by the coordinator. The results of this study showed that the FMI provided meaningful information about the home and parenting environment. 
Volunteer tourism impacts in Ghana: a practice approach
Using a practice approach focused on interactions between foreign volunteers and local staff, this study examined the impact of volunteer tourism on a primary school and an orphanage in Tamale, Ghana. While a  few positive aspects were reported across both projects (including that the presence of volunteers helped alleviate the workload of the local staff and that volunteers made financial contributions to the projects), the presence of the largely-unqualified volunteers decreased the productivity of the local staff and lead to frustration among all actors. Staff had to  frequently spend time training new, unqualified volunteers because of frequent turnover among the volunteers.
This study analyzed 18 in-depth, qualitative interviews from six participants on the meaning and experience of motherhood among teenage mothers in the United States in foster care in the years immediately after aging out of care. The study focused on participants' efforts to break the cycle of child abuse and neglect with their own children. The study has several policy and practice implications, including the need to provide teen mothers in foster care with the support to learn how to parent "differently." Discussions about substance abuse and providing young mothers in foster care with mental health services were also found to be particularly important.


Awareness Raising
The work of the Better Volunteering, Better Care global working  group has been covered in a range of publications across the world. French- language Canadian newspaper La Presse, the Sydney Morning Herald, and The Guardian have all recently covered the topic of the impact of volunteering in  residential care centers. In addition, Matador Network, the largest independent  travel publisher, recently featured three pieces by Better Volunteering, Better Care steering group member Dr. Eric Hartman on ethical volunteering.

Australian Parliamentarians speak out about orphanage volunteering
Following a recent visit to Cambodia, two Australian Parliamentarians, Alannah McTiernan and Linda Reynolds, have spoken out to warn Australians about the negative impact of volunteering and visiting orphanages overseas, particularly in Cambodia. You can watch Alannah McTiernan's speech before Parliament  and read Linda Reynolds' press release  warning against orphanage tourism.

New Australia Working Group
Members of the Better Volunteering, Better Care  working group based in Australia are establishing a working group called "Rethink  Orphanages" to address the issue of volunteers and donors from Australia  supporting residential care centres overseas. If you are interested in learning more  about the activities of this group, please contact

International Social Work Field Placements and Ethical Global Volunteering Group
Following discussions between the coordinator of the Global Social Service
Workforce Alliance (GSSWA), Amy Bess; the Assistant Director of the Office of Global
Activities at the University of Michigan, Katie Lopez; and the Director of the Better Care Network, Florence Martin, an initiative was started to explore the practice of international
social work field placements with children in residential care facilities, with an initial focus
on U.S. social work programs. For more information please contact volunteering@bettercarenetwork.org

Advocacy with Australian Churches
ACCI (Australian Christian Churches  International), which is represented on the Better Volunteering, Better Care steering  group by Rebecca Nhep, recently  completed a state-by-state conference circuit in Australia speaking to over 6,000  Christian leaders and pastors about the issue of residential care and orphanage  volunteering. Around 3,000 publications were distributed which contained a two-page  spread on ethical volunteering and donor engagement with orphanages. ACCI's  Ethical Volunteering guide can be viewed here

You can find more information on the Better Volunteering, Better Care Initiative here!
In this issue, we highlight the care-related Concluding Observations adopted by the Committee on the Rights of the Child at its 70th Session held from 14 September-2 October 2015, with a particular focus on sections addressing children's care.
Click below to read the Country Care Reviews for the following countries:


Voice of America, 26 February 2016

US News, 19 January 2016

The Times of India, 4 January 2016

NorthJersey.com, 21 December 2015
The Sydney Morning Herald,  20 Dec 2015
Human Rights Watch, 3 December 2015


Noida, India, 18-19 March 2016

Melbourne, Australia, 4-5 April 2016

New York, NY, United States, 18-19 April 2016

Toronto, Canada, 9-13 May 2016

Brussels, Belgium, 5-7 July 2016

Vienna, Austria, 22-25 August 2016