Common issues for children in institutional care are a significantly increased risk of sexual and physical abuse, a lack of stimulation, and harsh discipline. Children in institutions are less likely to attend school, and are frequently isolated from their traditional communities. Long periods in an institution make it harder for a child to assimilate back into a family and community, and deny them access to the life-long attachments and community support systems that family relationships and communities can provide. For funders and implementing bodies, care in the community is a significantly more effective and sustainable use of resources since it avoids the high maintenance costs of institutions, and prevents many of the problems posed by institutional care.
It is widely accepted that institutions should be used as a last resort only. Countries which have traditionally relied on institutional care are now transforming their institutions into small family style group homes and actively pursuing preferences for community-based care options based around small family style units. This policy shift is urgently required in HIV/AIDS affected countries which are taking a backward step in resorting to the use of institutions to care for children orphaned or affected by the disease.
The body of literature contained in this section provides in-depth explanations of the damaging effects of institutionalisation on children and provides recommendations for alterative community care options.