ENABLING REFORM: Why Supporting Children with Disabilities Must Be at the Heart of Successful Child Care Reform

Better Care Network and EveryChild

The Better Care Network and EveryChild are pleased to introduce the latest paper in the Better Care Network working paper series.  This paper focuses on children with disabilities and alternative care.  It demonstrates the urgent need to place disability at the heart of the child care reform agenda.  Millions of children with disabilities around the world continue to be placed in harmful forms of institutional care, and such care has been clearly shown to damage child development and to enhance the isolation, vulnerability to abuse, and, in some cases, disabling conditions of children with disabilities.  It is often based on out-dated medical models of disability which have long been rejected in favour of inclusive, multi sector community based responses.  In contrast to resources devoted to institutional care, many child care systems provide limited support to care for children with disabilities in families.  Parents and extended family carers often receive no or limited assistance and children with disabilities are frequently excluded from adoption and foster care programmes. 

The paper provides a clear agenda for action for reversing the neglect of childhood disability in child care reform and points towards several key policy recommendations including:

  1. Develop a united front between disabled people’s organisations and those campaigning on alternative care to push disability issues high up the child care reform agenda and challenge discrimination against those with disabilities. 
  2. Challenge governments and lobby NGOs, faith-based organisations and others who fund and support the continued use of institutional care to instead devote resources to community-based alternatives. 
  3. Encourage governments and donors to devote more resources to strengthen systems to support families caring for children with disabilities, including practical assistance, access to basic services and psycho-social support. 
  4. Integrate child protection and care services with health and education support to promote family-based care and ensure that the wide ranging needs of children with disabilities and their carers are met. 
  5. Provide detailed guidance to foster care and adoption service providers on strategies to make such services more inclusive and aimed at meeting the needs of children with disabilities. 
  6. Increase the visibility and understanding of disability issues in children’s care and protection through wider research and routinely disaggregated data collection. 


©Chris Saunders and Emily Delap