Interaction Competencies with Children (ICC): An Approach for Preventing Violence, Abuse, and Neglect in Institutional Care in Sub-Saharan Africa

Tobias Hecker, Getrude Mkinga, Joseph Ssenyonga, and Katharin Hermenau - Child Maltreatment in Residential Care

This chapter appears in Child Maltreatment in Residential Care: History, Research, and Current Practice, a volume of research examining the institutionalization of children, child abuse and neglect in residential care, and interventions preventing and responding to violence against children living in out-of-home care settings around the world. 


In Sub-Saharan Africa, poverty and the HIV/AIDS pandemic have led to constantly rising numbers of orphans over the last decades. In many African countries, childcare institutions constitute the most frequently utilized form of providing formal care for children without parents. In addition to parental loss and possible maltreatment in the family of origin, orphans are burdened with further experiences of maltreatment in childcare institutions, which may have detrimental consequences for mental health and development. Additionally, the often unresponsive and distant caregiving in institutional care may result in neglect. Thus, prevention of abuse and neglect is highly important in institutional care settings. With Interaction Competencies with Children – for Caregivers (ICC-C), we present a preventative intervention approach that aims to improve care quality and to prevent maltreatment in institutional care, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. ICC-C proved its feasibility and showed first promising results in a study with caregivers in Tanzanian orphanages. As maltreatment occurs in all alternative care settings, we emphasize that improving care quality may be more important than the type of care. Although basic nutrition, sanitation, and medical care are essential, interactions with responsive nonviolent caregivers are crucial to the children’s physical and behavioral development. Therefore, we advocate for focusing on the prevention of maltreatment and violence in institutional care and other care settings in Sub-Saharan Africa.