Did you know most orphanages in Ghana operate below the national standard? Many times donors’ bowels of compassion are moved towards orphanages with leaking roofs and with the children looking tattered. In the bid to fulfill their moral obligations, they end up instead going against the national laws of the land. I have faulted in this, and maybe you have too, but it’s never too late to do the right thing. Supporting the needy should not, under any circumstances, hurt the laws of the land. At the end of the day, when that happens, both the receivers and givers suffer. It creates a cycle of too much brokenness, which may last a great deal to amend.
Do you know there is a national standard for operating Residential Homes for children popularly known as orphanages in Ghana?
The first National Standards for Residential Homes for Children (RHC) were developed in 2010 to ensure that the structural setup and quality of care of children in residential care are consistent and in line with international and domestic legal frameworks, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989; the United Nations Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children, 2009; the Children’s Act (Act 560), 1998, and the Children’s Act, Legislative Instrument (L.l. 1705) of 2003.
The Standards for Residential Homes for Children in Ghana are intended to guide all those responsible for planning and providing residential care services and for licensing and inspecting Residential Homes for Children. The quality of care provided can be measured and assessed against these Standards.
There are 20 Standards grouped into 4 Sections.
Section 1. Caring for Children in the Residential Home Standard
This section encompasses the RHC caregivers Standard, Child safeguarding and protection Standard, Child participation Standard, Education Standard, Health and Nutrition Standard, Psychosocial Development Standard, and Play and leisure.
Section 2: Case Management of Children in the Residential Home Standard
This section looks at the Admission of children into the Residential Home Standard, the Care Plan and reviews Standard, Reunification with family Standard, Independent Living Standard, Case recording Standard, and Reporting on children in care Section
3: Premises and Facilities Standard
This section touches on the Design of premises and facilities Standard, the Safety of premises and facilities for a range of activities to promote their development
4: Residential Home for Children Governance and Management Standard
This section focuses on the Statement of Purpose and policies and procedures Standard, the Legal identity and governance Standard, the Transparent, accountable, and sustainable operations Standard, the Staffing and human resource management Standard, and Volunteers
Section 1: Standard 1
Children’s well-being and safety are ensured through the provision of an adequate number of sufficiently experienced and qualified RHC caregivers.
Criteria for achieving this standard
Every child should be placed in the care of a qualified caregiver who is responsible for all major care activities for a small group of children e.g. personal care, meals, homework, recreation, and emotional bonding and support
One caregiver for five children from birth to three years;
- One caregiver for eight children over three years of age;
- One caregiver for ten children from six years to eleven years;
- One caregiver for five children over eleven years to eighteen years;
- One caregiver for not more than two children with severe disabilities.
Standard 2: Child Safeguarding and Protection
Children feel safe in all aspects of their care and can expect zero tolerance for abuse, harm, and neglect.
Criteria for achieving this standard
Prohibited disciplinary practices are never used, including corporal punishment and humiliating treatment such as verbal abuse.
Staff found guilty of violating children’s rights, and abusing or physically harming children are dealt with in accordance with the relevant laws.
A Child Safeguarding Policy including a Code of Conduct (CoC) and complaints procedure, is in place and communicated with staff, children, parents/relatives of the placed children and DSW
Standard 3: Child Participation
Children’s right to participation in all aspects of their care is upheld. Children are included in all decisions that affect their life according to their age and maturity. These include decisions about their current placement, choice of religion, contact and reintegration in their families, transition to any other placement, leaving care, and preparation for independent living.
Criteria for Achieving the Standard 3
Children participate in the development and implementation of all aspects of their Care Plans, including decisions about contact with their parents/families and reunification or other permanency plans.
Children are encouraged to participate in decision-making in relation to their living circumstances in the RHC, and structured forums are provided for this participation.
The ethnicity, culture, and religion of most children in the RHC must not be forced on others. Children can practice their religion and traditions if this does not harm other residents in the RHC
Standard 4: Education
The child’s right to education is upheld. Every child is unconditionally provided with appropriate and relevant education suitable to his or her abilities and developmental needs and is assisted to in making effective use of the education provided.
Criteria for Achieving the Standard 4
Children are provided with the necessary resources to participate in school, including appropriate school uniforms, books, stationery, and contributions to school outings and excursions. Time and space for homework are also provided.
The learning process of the children is closely monitored, and school reports and certificates are included in their files or displayed in the home to encourage them
Children with learning difficulties or other special needs receive special education and, if possible, are provided with additional equipment (Braille computer, hearing equipment, etc.) to guarantee that they can reach their full potential.
Children of school-going age who are not in the school participate in a temporary educational program during normal school hours. The RHC works with the DSW and Ghana Education Service (GES) to secure appropriate educational provisions. If children had dropped out of school, appropriate measures are taken to provide them with vocational or skills training to improve their chances of competing for job opportunities in the future.
Standard 5: Health and Nutrition
Children have access to and receive adequate medical treatment and health care and are provided with nutritious meals suitable for their needs.
Criteria for Achieving Standard 5
Each home has a first aid box that is kept in an easily accessible place on the premises. RHC caregivers are all trained in basic first aid techniques.
The RHC ensures that all children in their care undergo a medical examination at the time of admission and annual medical checkups thereafter
The RHC ensures that all children are insured under the National Health Insurance Scheme
Any concerns about the physical, emotional, or mental health of a child are immediately addressed by referring the child for the necessary medical assistance
Children receive appropriate personal hygiene, health, and substance abuse prevention education.
A weekly meal plan for the home is displayed in the kitchen. Meal adheres to the basic dietary guidelines provided by a nutritionist.
Children should be involved as much as possible in choosing and preparing meals, and opportunities to sit and eat together should be promoted.
Clean drinking water is always available for all age groups
Standard 6: Psychosocial Development
Children are supported to achieve their mental, moral, social, and emotional development.
Criteria for Achieving Standard 6
Activities and assistance that support the children’s psychosocial development are based on the individual needs of the children and are laid down in each child’s Care Plan.
Children are supported to overcome trauma and establish self-esteem and resilience
Children are supported to make life books and/or memory boxes to ensure that their roots and background are known and that they understand why they are in the RHC.
Standard 7: Play and Leisure
Children can play in a safe and stimulating environment that supports friendships, relations with children from the community, and their individual and group developmental needs
Criteria for Achieving Standard 7
Children have sufficient time to play in their daily routines. Children are encouraged and enabled to make and sustain friendships with children of their age outside the RHC
The RHC ensures that every child has access to indoor toys and games and outdoor play equipment that is age-appropriate and supports the development of the child in all aspects
Children with disabilities and/or special needs are provided with appropriate toys for stimulation and opportunities to play and relax
Children are encouraged and given opportunities to participate in extramural activities, including sporting and leisure interests.
The RHC has a clearly defined legal and organizational identity, which reflects its residential care activities and its good standing and reputation in the community as a child care service provider. Any person or an NGO may establish and operate a home for the care of children subject to the approval of the Minister. All privately run RHCs are registered with the Registrar General as a Trust and are also registered as NGOs with the Department of Welfares. These registrations are renewed annually (or as prescribed). All RHC must be registered as an NGO.
RHCs which operate as family “businesses” are not encouraged e.g. founder is the manager, and family members are employed as staff in management, caregiving, or other positions. These kinds of arrangements create potential conflicts of interest in the management of staff and ensure staff accountability. Where the RHC also operates a daycare center, and school for children in the RHC, these facilities are registered with the Department of Social Welfare and Ministry of Education, respectively
The RHC is able to prove its financial viability and sustainability e.g. by donor commitments and/or secured capital sufficient to cover the running costs of the facility for at least one year (and, preferably, for a period of three years).
Pictures of children and personal stories are never used for fundraising purposes. Children are not used to raising funds directly e.g. making requests at community meetings or from local or international visitors.
The RHC produces a donation book that records all donations in cash and in-kind received from individuals and organizations. The RHC produces an annual report that is sent to DSW by 30 January.
The RHC produces an annual audited financial report (audited by an external auditor) that is sent to DSW together with the annual report. This audited financial report includes all incoming funds, including donor grants, donations from the public (financial and material), and income from other sources e.g. income-generation activities or owner business.
I only highlighted the salient standards and not all, please get much more information from the NATIONAL STANDARDS FOR RESIDENTIAL HOMES document published by UNICEF Ghana, Department of Social Welfare of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in 2018. Document available here.
We all have a role to play in ensuring that the founders of orphanages adhere strictly to these national standards in their bid to support vulnerable children in society. Did you notice these standards were adhered to in the orphanage you visited recently?