You Cannot Start An Orphanage In Ghana Again. Are orphanages bad? This is one of the most popular questions on the lips of many as Ghana gradually fades out of institutional care. Ghana’s child and family welfare policy prohibits separating a child from the family due to poverty.
To ensure that children are not at risk of being separated, their families of origin must be supported to provide better care for the children.
Separation of a child from the family because of economic and social issues causes that child to suffer various forms of trauma due to the destroyed attachment between child and family.
The introduction of livelihood support programs such as small-scale businesses and income-generating activities alongside education is the best way to help families in need provide the care and love their children need.
All you need to know about Ghana’s new Child and family welfare policy
The Child and Family Welfare Policy, summarized, recognizes that a child is an integral part of the family. As such, a child’s welfare cannot be separated from the family’s. Child and Family Welfare is concerned with all activities, services, and norms which support the child in the context of their wider family setting. The Child Protection System – of which Child and Family Welfare is one part – includes additional functions such as the overarching legal framework, including children and justice, and the education and health systems.
As such, the Child Protection System engages more actors and ministries. This Policy concerns the ‘formal’ component of Child and Family Welfare services (governed by laws, policies, and regulations and delivered by state institutions) and the ‘informal’ (based on community and traditional processes and resources).
A landmark document, the Policy heralds a reformed child protection system in Ghana that will address and prevent harm to children. It has at its foundations the positive traditional values, principles, and protective practices inherent in Ghanaian culture.
The Policy is aligned with national legal and policy frameworks and international conventions, treaties, and protocols ratified and signed by the Government of Ghana. These include the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 1992 Constitution, and the 1998 Children’s Act. Specifically, the policy is guided by the fundamental principles of non-discrimination, the best interests of the child, the right to survival and development, and the child’s right to participation.
Good versus bad orphanages
I often get questions from well-intentioned supporters who say, “I know that orphanages can be bad, and I saw the pictures of the orphanages covered by Anas, but the orphanage I support is nothing like that. I support a good orphanage.”
Unfortunately, regardless of how much money is put into an orphanage – no matter how clean, how many materials, or how much training and support the staff receive – the model of care is fundamentally flawed. An orphanage cannot provide the kind of one-on-one individual focus of a family created around love, acceptance, and safety. Institutional care is based on a group with revolving caregivers, set routines, and a fixed end date.
A substantial body of evidence made the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, and many other countries transition from institutional care to family-based care. Yet, we continue to support this antiquated model abroad.
The Hopes and Homes for Children capture it this way:
The consequences of living in an orphanage are devastating. Over 80 years of research worldwide has demonstrated the significant harm caused to children in institutions – and the importance of family in children’s lives.
Neglect and abuse
Evidence shows that the delivery of care and protection in an orphanage is inadequate. Children require individualized care and attention – which they cannot receive in an institutional setting. Neglect, a system feature, puts children at increased risk of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.
“The use of physical restraints, isolation, and solitary confinement occurs in some institutions… in some instances amounting to torture.”The UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty
Institutions/orphanages fail to support solid and meaningful relationships between children, their parents and siblings, and the wider family. Groups of siblings are often split up and assigned to separate units or even to different institutions far away from one another. While most children in institutional care are not orphans, they have very little or no connections with their communities and little knowledge of their cultural heritage, traditions, and values.
Often, children’s entire lives are spent within the institution. Consequently, they tend to be stigmatized and perceived as ‘different,’ leading to further social isolation.
“Children [are] being confined and cut off from communities, having limited or no contact with their families, often placed far away from where they live.“
The UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty
The existence of orphanages creates a ‘pull effect,’ offering local authorities and professionals an easy option for dealing with children and families in crisis. In some contexts, institutionalization is wrongly perceived as the safest option – for children with additional needs or those. Parents lacking information, counseling, and access to medical and support services often turn to institutions as their only option. Similarly, it is not uncommon for one child from a family to be sent to an orphanage so they can access education.
Voluntourism and the ‘orphanage economy.’
Children in orphanages are often exploited as ‘attractions’ for tourists and volunteers. This creates a profit motive for unscrupulous orphanage managers – and drives an ‘orphanage economy.’
Many people who volunteer in orphanages are well-intentioned. However, this kind of ‘voluntourism’ is highly harmful. As well as encouraging child trafficking (to feed the requirement for more ‘orphans’), it perpetuates orphanages. It also creates attachment problems in children who become close to short-term visitors and exposes children to abuse where child protection regulations are lax.
Orphanages don’t just harm children – they harm all of us.
Ensuring that children grow up in resilient, loving, family-based care impacts various human development priorities, including health, education, and economic activity. Read below the ripple effect of institutionalization and the deep links between institutions and other key issues.
What drives children into orphanages?
Poverty and institutionalization are deeply entwined. Read how poverty both drives and is driven by institutionalization.
Many children are placed in institutions so they can access a good education. Despite the hopes of parents, they rarely receive this. Read more about the links between education and institutionalization.
Lack of access to health services drives children into institutions. These institutions, in turn, can cause lifelong medical problems. Explore the relationship between healthcare and care reform.
Humanitarian emergencies significantly strain children, families, and communities ability to support them. Read more about why institutions flourish in the aftermath of crises.
Read how discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, and disability are all linked to institutionalization.
According to Ghana’s laws, placing children in families is the best option.
Children Belong in Families.
FAMILY-BASED CARE OPTIONS IN GHANA
Traditionally, when parents cannot look after their children due to illness, death, imprisonment, poverty, etc., their relatives take care of the children’s upbringing. This is what we term Kinship or Informal Care. There are laws and policies in Ghana that allows for the formalization of kinship Care. The formalization of kinship Care is called Kinship fostering.
Foster Care is designed as a temporary service that responds to crises in the lives of children and families. An expectation exists that children who enter care will either return to their birth parents as soon as possible or will be provided with safe, stable, and loving families through reunification with other relatives.
However, some children remain in foster care for more extended periods. Foster care serves children who have experienced trauma, abuse, or neglect. The Foster Care process in Ghana is carried out by either the Department of Social Welfare or an accredited agency.
To foster a child in Ghana, the processes are as follows:
One needs to apply through the DSW or an accredited agency. All relevant documents should accompany the application form.
This is followed by a home study to investigate the capacity of the parent to foster. The home study and all other documents are submitted to the foster care placement committee.
This committee recommends the approval or disapproval of the application and forwards it to the Foster care unit, which reviews it and approves training for the applicant.
DSW or an approved agency then arrange a 30-hour training for the approved applicant, after which the applicant receives Their license.
The license will be renewed based on a satisfactory review of the eligibility and suitability of the applicant’s status.
The license of a foster parent can, however, be revoked if the circumstances of the foster parent change so much that it is no longer in the child’s best interest.
Source: Foster Care Regulations 2018 (L.I.2361)
This is the legal transfer of the parental right of a child from a biological parent to another person permanently.