The history of orphanages in Ghana is a painful trip back in time. Although no child welfare system existed in the pre-colonial Gold Coast, it was customary for the extended family, through kinship foster care and other community networks, to provide care and protection for children whose parents could not do so.
Orphans were also cared for by childless members of the clan. Community members were committed to the welfare of all children because they believed it “took a village to raise a child.”
The introduction of colonial rule saw the beginning of modern cities and industrialization in Ghana. Traditional society did not remain static. As a result of the subsequent social change and economic pressure, the kinship foster care system gradually lost some of its capacity to respond to the requirements of children needing alternative parental care.
Like many other African colonies, the colonial administration’s response to providing care for children was basically to import the wholesale foreign system used in the United Kingdom.
So, with little experimentation or determination of community preferences, child welfare provision in the colonial period focused on residential care (what is popularly known as orphanages).
In principle, the orphanage format does not allow over 12 months stay. Yet, once a child is institutionalized, it often becomes a semi-permanent or permanent placement. Between 1996 and 2006, there was a 91 percent increase in the number of Residential Homes for Children (RHCs) (from 13 to 148), with about 4 000 children in care in 2006. The number of children living in orphanages is about 0.1 percent of Ghana’s population. This means they could be fostered or adopted quickly since they are a small percentage compared to Ghana’s population.
God’s best for children is to be in families; we can change the narrative. It is never too late.
Find out more in the book “Family Based Vs Institutional Care: Best Approaches in caring for orphans and vulnerable children”