Alternative care refers to non-traditional family-based or residential care for children when they are deprived of parental care. It is estimated that between 3.2 and 9.4 million children reside in institutional-type residential care settings globally. Most commonly, children enter residential care due to a combination of factors that may include natural disaster, poverty, abuse, neglect, or risks to safety. Introduction to residential care is also associated with low household income, lack of access to basic services (e.g., education), disability, and/or parental challenges.
Decades of research on the experiences of children in residential care suggest that residing in institutional care can negatively impact the health and well-being of children. Observed negative consequences include disrupted physical growth, hearing and vision problems, motor skill delays, and increased sickness. Children in residential care are also at risk of physical and sexual abuse by their staff and peers at higher rates than children in family settings. Research has also revealed that children in residential care settings suffer from cognitive, emotional, and social development stunting in addition to physical. Emotional abuse and neglect can also be common in residential care settings. Some research has shown that there can be positive outcomes relating to children’s physical and emotional well-being.
Though research has been conducted on children with disabilities and on children in residential care settings, the intersections of these two topics has yet to be explored in depth. Notably, there is a lack of information surrounding disability measurement within residential care settings, highlighting a gap in the literature. It is estimated that a child with a disability is 17 times more likely to be placed in an institutionalized care setting than a child without a disability, and girls are more likely to be placed in an institution than boys. This report details research conducted in Kenya.