The Importance of Child Care Reform in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

Care Reform also Known as De- Institutionalization is the suystematic transitioning from orphanages ( institutions) as a model of care to other forms of Alternative Community/ Family Based care (adoption, Kinship, guardianship, foster care, Kafaala) 


2020 marks the beginning of the last 10 years of the 2030 mark of the Agenda for the Sustainable Development goals. But how far have we come primarily in areas affecting some of the marginalized Children and Young people? 


In part one of this article – We explore the fate of some of the most marginalized groups and in this case Children without Parental Care. These are children separated from their families leading to placement in orphanages (also known as Care Institutions)


Are orphanages not for orphaned children?  

The aspect of orphanages caring for orphans is a myth.  


8 Million Children around the world live in orphanages and 80 -85% percent of these children have at least a living parent – Maestral International.  A reality fueled by various factors ranging from economic, social and political factors. 


Poverty in all its forms, neglect, abandonment, continues to separate children from the embrace of their; loving families. In situations where societies are not inclusive children are often and most times placed in orphanages to larger extents because of the material gains e.g. food, education, that comes with placement of this nature.


Over 80 years of research have shown that orphanages are harmful to children. 


A Family is the fundamental unit of a society. Children need safe and nurturing families to grow and thrive. They need love and attention that only the family environment can provide. 


Removal of a child from the family and placing them in an orphanage leads to a weakened family institution and in return denies children the opportunity to experience family Love, the culture and tradition provided by a community set up. This impacts negatively on the identity of the child as they grow up. Research shows that Young people who grew up in orphanages globally referred to as Care Leavers often struggle with identity and belonging upon exiting these orphanages – 


Culture and traditions that come as a result of being part of a Family and Community breed Identity which in turn births belonging. Orphanages not only rob children the right to family love but also robs the community and families off the opportunity to raise and nurture their children. 


Placement of children in orphanages also referred to as Institutionalization is often seen as a way to protect children who really are in need of care and protection but the irony is that


Institutionalization of children doesn’t not always mean Protection.  


In reality orphanages increase children’s’ exposure to abuse and exploitation. These are traumatic experience and evidence from care leavers show that one of the major problems they continue to face is mental Health contributing to poor outcomes. 


Nelson C.A observes the cognitive delays in brain development  of children in orphanages to more complex challenges  eg the ability  to plan , reason and controo impulses  compared to children growing in a normal family set up . 


The structured life around which the life of a child in an institution is curved  does not relly equip them with the skills and coping mechanisms to adapt and adjust once they age out of the institution. 


As a result some research show that a substantial number of boys enter into crime and substance abuse  while majority of young women and girls are prone to  enter into Research shows a substantial number of boys enter into early or violent marriages and their children  likely to end up  in an orphanage thus perpetuating an endless cycle of poverty and institutionalization.  In the worse scenarios, care leavers are unable to find a sense of self or a community resulting in suicide.



● December 2019 -at the United Nations General Assembly – for the first time all 193 member states adopted a resolution acknowledging that Orphanages are harmful for children – hence calling for progressive elimination of such a system and embrace family-based care. This marked a big step in realizing the right to family for every child. 



It is without a doubt that children need families and not orphanages – However, as long as communities are not empowered, as long as the services are not inclusive children will be placed in orphanages which puts them on a trajectory of repeated cycles of violence –  


To create more inclusive sustainable communities, addressing the root causes of family Separation is therefore not an option.  Intentional Commitment by governments, NGOs, donors and all Stakeholders Holders – to see that, families are strengthened, care leavers empowered, community services and environment for children to grow up in families are provided. 


It is until then will we have achieved, Peace and Justice, Reduced inequalities, Good Health and Wellbeing.


Ruth Wacuka is a writer, Sustposter, a child Care Reform and Mental Health Advocate - with experience in advocacy, from a policy level. Known for her pursuit in Justice for children especially the right to Family- Ruth is a One Young World Ambassador , a Co-Founder and Director of Reroot Africa an Organization in Kenya demystifying Voluntourism (orphanage tourism ) in Africa . Beyond this - Ruth is an entrepreneur and co-owns a creative business – that partners with local artisans to make eco -friendly and Quality African products for sale both locally and Internationally while empowering marginalized youth and communities in Kenya and Ethiopia Ruth is open for conversations /partnerships and can be reached through hello@ruthwacuka,com Ruth W.Wacuka "For not an orphan in the Wide World can be so deserted as a child who is an outcast from a living parents Love''- Charles Dicksens.

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