August 2020
Joint Issue on Nutrition and Children's Care
'We must step forward together with sustained action and investments on nutrition today and deny the COVID-19 crisis an intergenerational legacy of hunger and malnutrition in children.'

- Leaders of four UN agencies, from Child malnutrition and COVID-19: the time to act is now


This month’s issue of the Better Care Network newsletter, published in partnership with SPOON, focuses on children’s nutrition and care, including nutrition and food security for vulnerable children during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The right to food is a fundamental human right for everyone, including children. Good nutrition, a core element of this right, supports children’s growth and brain development, builds a foundation for future health, and is a critical part of nurturing care. Poor nutrition, particularly in the first 1,000 days, can cause irreversible delays in child development.

As COVID-19 strikes, a quarter of all children suffer from stunting, and malnutrition is linked to approximately 45% of all child deaths globally. Furthermore, the World Food Program predicts that the economic impact of COVID-19 will double the number of people facing severe food shortages by the end of 2020.

The research from SPOON and others highlighted in this newsletter issue demonstrates that children living outside of family care suffer from malnutrition at rates far greater than their peers. This is particularly true for children with disabilities, who are over-represented in this population, particularly in institutional settings. While malnutrition is only one of many issues that must be addressed in family strengthening and deinstitutionalization efforts, it is foundational. Families experiencing food insecurity and poverty are more likely to relinquish their children, especially when the children have special healthcare needs, and children in residential care who are malnourished are more likely to face challenges returning home or being placed with a family.  

Best practices in nutrition and feeding can significantly improve the development and wellbeing of children without family care, as well as for children with disabilities. Nutrition support can also help to strengthen families, thus preventing family separation and promoting reintegration.

The resources featured in this issue address the unique nutrition and feeding needs of these groups of children. They cover both what and how children are fed, including ways to promote safe, nurturing feeding practices.

Mishelle Rudzinski
Executive Director, SPOON

Florence Martin
Director, Better Care Network

Focus on Nutrition and Children's Care
Nutrition & Feeding During the COVID-19 Crisis

This comment piece from the Lancet describes the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children's nutrition, noting that vulnerable families, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are struggling to access the food and services they need in the context of an economic downturn. The authors issue "a call for action to protect children's right to nutrition in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read also:

This paper draws upon lessons from SPOON's work in 17 countries since 2008, summarizing the main nutrition considerations for children in alternative care and offering recommendations on integrating nutrition and feeding practices into alternative care programs. This paper also explores ways that nutrition can support the global movement to ensure every child has family-based care, while meeting the immediate needs of the millions of children currently in all types of alternative care. The paper also calls attention to the new risks from COVID-19.

This joint note from UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, and WHO aims to consolidate the current recommendations on Infant and Young Child Feeding in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa. 

This briefing note from Spoon provides considerations for program implementers, policy makers, and funders of programs in nutrition, child protection, and early child development.

Based on experience working with children, families and communities in emergencies, including epidemics, in this policy brief, World Vision outlines a number of recommendations for Governments, UN Agencies, Donors, NGOS, Private Sector and Faith Leaders to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on children’s health and nutrition, particularly for vulnerable children. 

This joint note from the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is aimed at providing preliminary guidance to national and local authorities, school administrators and staff and implementing partners on how to take short-term measures to support, transform or adapt school feeding programmes in their efforts to safeguard the food security and nutritional status of school-aged children, particularly the most vulnerable, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This Brief from UNICEF, the Global Nutrition Cluster, and GTAM is meant to provide information specific to services and programmes for the management of child wasting in the context of COVID-19, and it contains information that is not already available elsewhere.

This two-page brief outlines the UNICEF-WFP partnership's two-pronged strategy to respond to the immediate and medium-term needs to prevent and treat child wasting during and after COVID-19. 

This blog post from 1,000 Days calls attention to the "malnutrition epidemic" that the world's children are currently facing, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors call for a "targeted package of preventative and curative essential nutrition interventions."

"New data show that an unprecedented number of children in the United States are experiencing food insecurity and did not have sufficient food as of late June," writes Lauren Bauer in this blog post for the Brookings Institution. Bauer calls for a "substantial and immediate public investment" in order to address this critical need, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the expansion of federal nutrition assistance programs.

This UN brief examines the COVID-19 pandemic's threats to food security and nutrition of millions of people around the world and suggests three mutually reinforcing sets of priority actions to address the immediate, near- and medium-term needs to protect people during and beyond the crisis, and – ultimately – to reshape and build resilient food systems. The brief notes that one of the most vulnerable groups is children separated from their mothers or caregivers.

This one-page factsheet from Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) provides facts and information about COVID-19 and malnutrition.

This editorial from The Lancet Global Health discusses the effect of COVID-19 on food insecurity, particularly for women and children.

This information note provides initial considerations and actions for Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Government Focal Points and country multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPs) to help them engage in national COVID-19 response efforts to protect and promote good nutrition. This should be done through an adequate integration of nutrition actions into COVID-19 response plans and the protection of existing nutrition programming, especially for the most vulnerable (including vulnerable children).

This resource document from UNOCHA and GTAM collates available guidance and tools on the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) to assist Nutrition in Emergencies (NiE) practitioners in integrating COVID-19 preparedness and response into humanitarian nutrition responses. It includes guidance on infant and young child feeding.

The 2020 edition of The Global Report on Food Crises describes the scale of acute hunger in the world, including for vulnerable children. It provides an analysis of the drivers that are contributing to food crises across the globe, and examines how the COVID-19 pandemic might contribute to their perpetuation or deterioration. The report is produced by the Global Network against Food Crises, an international alliance working to address the root causes of extreme hunger.

This scientific brief from the World Health Organization (WHO) examines the evidence to date on the risks of transmission of COVID-19 from an infected mother to her baby through breastfeeding as well as evidence on the risks to child health from not breastfeeding.

Co-sponsored by Bread for the World, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and 1,000 Days, this webinar heard first-hand accounts from a doctor on the front lines; from a researcher who is a core member of the Standing Together for Nutrition coalition and studying program adaptations in the context of the pandemic; and from a storyteller who shared best practices (and turnkey resources) to bring these stories to life to inspire leaders to act. 

In this webinar, Dr. Larry Grummer-Strawn, Technical Officer Dept. of Nutrition and Food Safety at the World Health Organization (WHO), presents to the International Coalition for Advocacy on Nutrition (ICAN) regarding the official guidance, challenges, and concerns with promoting, protecting, and supporting breastfeeding in the time of COVID-19. 

Nutrition & Feeding for Children's Care

This advocacy brief from SPOON notes that successful nutrition interventions are not reaching the children who are at highest risk, including children without family care and children with disabilities, and outlines four key actions that can help to ensure that children without family care and children with disabilities have opportunities to grow and thrive. 

This review from PeerJ aimed to evaluate currently available data on the nutrition status of children living within institutionalized care.

This experimental evaluation measures the impact of the LEGACY program on child nutrition. The program, implemented in three townships across Myanmar’s central dry zone, provided monthly cash transfer to mothers in their last two trimesters of pregnancy until the child turns two years old, as well as a monthly Social and Behavioral Change Communication (SBCC) activity supplementing the cash transfers, covering a range of topics related to nutrition and child health. The evaluation explores potential effects on other outcomes, such as debt, savings, women’s decision making, desired fertility and family planning, usage of cash transfers, and exposure to SBCC.

This course is for caregivers and professional service providers working with children with disabilities, children at risk of family separation, or children in alternative care. SPOON designed this free course to unpack the components of mealtime that can be used for screening, how to differentiate food textures, and how to identify feeding difficulties and opportunities to support caregivers.

The purpose of this longitudinal study from BMC Public Health is to develop, implement and to test the efficacy of an evidence-based nutrition education programme (NEP) for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in South Africa that will integrate their families/caregivers, schools and communities. 

This year’s Global Nutrition Report examine the global burden of malnutrition with an equity lens to develop a fuller understanding of nutrition inequalities. In doing this, the report pinpoints and prioritises key actions to amplify efforts and propel progress towards ending malnutrition in all its forms. The report examines inequalities within global infant and young child feeding (IYCF), stunting, wasting, solid food introduction, meal frequency, dietary diversity and minimum acceptable diet, noting that children from the richest households do far better in these areas.

This edition of UNICEF's State of the World’s Children report examines children, food and nutrition. It seeks to deepen understanding around the causes and consequences of children’s malnutrition in all its forms and to highlight how governments, business, families and other stakeholders can best respond.

The purpose of this study from the journal of African Health Sciences was to assess the level of household hunger and associated factors among orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) households in Lagos State, Nigeria.

1,000 Days, with support from Zero to Three and their Think Babies Campaign, has created this resource, Nutrition in the First 1,00 Days, to focus on the importance of investing in nutrition during this foundational period.

This report from ODI and UNICEF critically reviews the case for universal child benefits (UCBs). It seeks to contribute to a burgeoning and lively debate on the (potential) role of UCBs as a policy instrument in the pursuit of child poverty reduction and universal social protection. The report calls attention to the impacts that cash transfers and other social protection measures have on non-monetary outcomes such as education, health status and nutrition, and calls for the provision of complementary high-quality services to meaningfully benefit children's intermediate and final outcomes.

Launch of the Transitioning Care Assessment Tool

This tool - developed by Better Care Network and Kinnected, an intitiative of ACC International Relief, with support from Changing the Way We Care - is designed as an assessment framework that assists practitioners to identify and analyze the key starting point dynamics and determine implications for strategy in their work to transition an organization's model of care of children from institutional to a non-institutional model.

This webinar, hosted by Better Care Network and ACC International Relief, presented an overview of the Transitioning Models of Care Assessment Tool and examples of its application.

Understanding the Situation

Cracks in the System is a new report from Lumos that systematically explores the links between institutional care and child trafficking in Europe.

This child-led research initiative was conducted under the umbrella of World Vision’s DEAR project (Development Education and Awareness Raising) and the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030. The aim of these child-led research projects was to understand children and young people’s perceptions about violence against children as described within the SDG (16.2) that seeks to end violence towards children.

El presente informe por la Red Latinoamericana de Egresados de Protección reúne los hallazgos principales de una investigación de carácter exploratorio-descriptivo que ha sido desarrollada en seis países de la región (Argentina, Bolivia, Brasil, Colombia, México y Perú). El objetivo fue documentar y analizar las políticas, estrategias y acciones desarrolladas para promover y acompañar la transición de adolescentes desde el sistema de cuidados alternativos hacia la vida autónoma

This paper from Just for Kids Law (JfKL) explores an issue that the organization has come across through their work: cases of under 18s (mainly 16- and 17-year olds) in the UK who are facing homelessness and do not receive the support they are entitled to from local authority children’s services. 

This paper from the OECD provides a structured overview of the existing parenting literature with the aim of developing an evidence-based and culture-sensitive framework of parenting and its influence on child development.

The current literature review from Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience & Mental Health provides a conceptual and empirical framework for understanding child institutional maltreatment.

With a recent interest by stakeholders in Ghana to consider kinship care as an alternative care option in child welfare policy, this study from the Journal of Family Issues explores current kinship care challenges to help identify and address potential setbacks for policy and practice recommendations.

Related Topics: Kinship Care
The aim of this study from the Children and Youth Services Review was to investigate the prevalence of depression, anxiety, and resilience in Eritrean unaccompanied refugee minors living with foster parents in Sudan.

The purpose of this study from the International Journal of Education and Research was to determine the financial challenges faced by caregivers of orphans in Kitui Central Subcounty, Kitui County, Kenya.

This brief from the Australian Childhood Foundation Centre for Excellence in Therapeutic Care & Southern Cross University addresses issues in young people’s participation in decision-making in residential care in Australia.

There has recently been increased interest in the potential for formal and informal networks to aid interventions with biological families in helping them achieve reunification in the context of the child protection system. This article from the journal of Social Sciences analyzes the conceptualization of social support in order to create social support networks.

The Global status report on preventing violence against children 2020 - produced by WHO, UNICEF, UNESCO, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Violence against Children, and the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children - charts countries’ progress towards the SDGs aimed at ending violence against children.

Related Topics: Child Abuse and Neglect
Policies, Standards, and Guidelines

These Standards for Foster Care - developed by UNICEF Ghana and the Department of Social Welfare of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection - are available to all stakeholders engaged in the protection, care and support of children where foster care provision may be required. These Standards are intended to guide social workers and other service providers in monitoring foster care services.

This briefing paper from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs of 127 Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) submitted by 114 UN Member States (13 Governments reported more than once) indicates that families may be key to ensure progress towards the SDGs by 2030, with close to 90 per cent of countries making specific references to families.

This two-module course from UNICEF is aligned to the Guidelines to Strengthen the Social Service Workforce for Child Protection and aims to equip the learner with key strategies to strengthen social service workforce.

This article from Child Abuse & Neglect illuminates the important role the Committee on the Rights of the Child played in monitoring child abuse and neglect in the implementation of the now thirty years old Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

This paper from Child Abuse & Neglect explores the efficacy of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Convention, UN General Assembly, 1989) through the lens of the over-representation of First Nations children placed in out-of-home care in Canada and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia.

Learning from Practice

This research project aimed to study and inform the effective use of Pupil Premium Plus (PP+)-funded interventions to support educational outcomes for looked after children in the UK.

This report from Lumos maps and assesses the forms of care provided to unaccompanied migrant, asylum-seeking and refugee children in six European Union Member States: Bulgaria, France, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands and Spain.

This document from the Global Coalition for Reintegration of Child Soldiers is a summary of three papers on how to effectively support children who have exited armed forces and armed groups and contains actionable recommendations at the end to stimulate thinking and action to assist these most vulnerable children and their communities.

This paper from the Children and Youth Services Review reflects on the collective participation of young people in care in a rights-based initiative intended to facilitate input into service and policy development in Ireland.

This article from New Ideas in Psychology is a qualitative phenomenological study seeking to examine the perceptions, views and feelings of the orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), care-givers and community leaders on their experiences with Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) as a material and psychosocial support intervention in Zimbabwe.

This study from Qualitative Social Work used content analysis to explore: “What are the post-care housing experiences of youth who have transitioned from care through an independent support program?”

The purpose of this study from Child Abuse & Neglect was to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis on the effectiveness of parenting interventions in preventing violence against children in East and Southeast Asia.

This study from Research on Social Work Practice investigated process and outcomes of the Parenting for Lifelong Health (PLH) for Young Children and for Adolescents programs implemented in South Sudan as part of routine service delivery in postconflict settings.

9 September 2020
10-11 September 2020
Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO)
5-16 October 2020
The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action
13-16 October 2020
Be Strong Families, Center for the Study of Social Policy, Families Canada, Seattle Human Services, & National Family Support Network
Job Postings and Opportunities

15 August 2020
31 January 2021
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Boston College School of Social Work Research Program on Children and Adversity

Newsletter participants, currently 4,511 in total, work on issues related to the care and support of vulnerable children across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas. The purpose of the newsletter is to enable members to exchange information on matters of mutual concern. If you would like to share a document, raise a specific issue, request a newsletter subscription, or reach out in any other way to the Network, please send the information to us at or visit our website at 

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