If not now, then when? The importance of intervening early to provide family-based environments for all children

Aisha K Yousafzai - The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health

In this commentary piece, Aisha K Yousafzai - of the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and the  and Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at Aga Khan University - notes that "the evidence presented [in the Lancet Group Commission on the institutionalisation and deinstitutionalisation of children] and their call to action to ensure abandoned children can thrive in family-based care environments rather than in institutions matters now more than ever as the global community addresses unprecedented challenges to ensure a generation of children are not left behind with respect to their survival, health, development, learning, and safety."

Yousafzai describes the development needs of young children in early childhood and states that "in order for children to thrive, it is insufficient to provide only for their basic health, nutrition, and sanitation needs. Children require individualised responsive care from a dependable adult" and discusses the benefits of early intervention for children who have been institutionalised, calling for the transition of children from institutions to family-based care environments as early as possible so that "adverse outcomes in the life-course can be prevented or reduced."

"Acting now to increase investments in early, high quality parenting support and family-based care can concurrently reduce the risks of young children ending up in institutionalised care, and increase transition of children in institutions to responsive and nurturing family environments. Goldman and colleagues, informed by the developmental science and the rights of children, make pragmatic recommendations to make this a reality. Going forward, these approaches must be inclusive and ensure the voices and needs of young children and their advocates are actively sought and heard so they do not remain invisible."