Examples from around the world demonstrate that there are many ways children without adequate family care can be supported within their own communities. This includes both formal and informal arrangements such as foster care, kinship care, domestic adoption/Kafala, guardianship, supervised independent living, child-headed households and small group homes.
These practices can be supported through a range of formal measures including social protection schemes (e.g. child sensitive cash transfers), family strengthening services, community based rehabilitation services for children with disabilities, respite care, training for caregivers, and policies that support families in alternative care-taking roles. Increasing access to free education and health services, and establishing social assistance programmes to reduce poverty, can also help the poorest caregivers to support children within the community.
In the absence of well-developed care and child protection systems in many countries, community based mechanisms can also play a key role supporting children and caretakers in alternative care situations. Child protection Committees, faith based organizations, civil society groups, volunteer associations and other community based groups can provide financial or practical support through schemes that help to fund children’s education or health costs, link them to support services or social assistance schemes, and provide mentorship and family counseling. Home visits and caretaker support groups can also play a valuable role, while awareness raising efforts to promote children’s rights (particularly if supported by community and religious leaders), can help to reduce discrimination against girls and boys in alternative care arrangements – particularly those with disabilities or from minority groups.
As long as they are not over-burdened or given responsibilities beyond their competence, community-based groups can provide vital support to children in alternative care situations. Often however, they are hampered by weak organizational procedures, limited technical capacity and poor coordination. Continued efforts by governments, NGOs and international agencies are needed to promote their institutional development and to enhance their ability to support children.
The literature in this section describes a range of care arrangements that enable children to receive adequate care within their own communities, and community support initiatives that help to sustain them.