Drumming Together for Change: A Child’s Right to Quality Care in Sub-Saharan Africa

SOS Children’s Villages, Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland, University of Malawi

This report - produced by SOS Children’s Villages, Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland, and the University of Malawi - is based on a synthesis of eight assessments of the implementation of the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (“the Guidelines”) in Benin, Gambia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Togo, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

It considers common challenges to implementing the Guidelines identified in the eight countries and provides a platform for effective advocacy to promote every child’s right to quality care. At the end of each chapter, the report provides solution-based recommendations to guide governments in improving implementation and, at pertinent points in the report, illustrated roadmaps detail the first steps governments need to take towards implementation. The concluding chapter contextualises the recommendations to promote local advocacy focused on context-specific challenges and solutions.

Key findings from this review of country assessments include:

  • There is insufficient provision of services that prevent family separation and alternative care. These services reach only a small portion of the population in need, they are poorly coordinated, and they are primarily funded by NGOs.
  • Governments are failing to live up to the principle of ‘necessity’ in the provision of alternative care: children are unnecessarily admitted to alternative care and remain there for longer than necessary.
  • There is a lack of formal care provision, specifically formal family-based care. There is a limited range of formal care mechanisms in some settings, which constrains the options for decision-makers to find ‘suitable’ alternative care arrangements when necessary and there is an increased burden placed on informal care mechanisms, without corresponding support from States to assist carers.
  • Quality of residential care is inconsistent, children in residential care often do not have their individual needs met, and there is often limited government oversight when it comes to residential care.
  • There are limited child protection systems in place and those that do exist are often inconsistent and inadequate.

According to the report, governments may face challenges in implementing the Guidelines on the Alternative Care of Children in their States. It is the aim of this report to offer assistance in finding ways to create an environment in which change is possible. The report states that advocacy efforts should be tailored to national, regional, and local levels, and that they require local knowledge and strategies. The report seeks to answer why it may be difficult for governments to implement the Guidelines and what can be done to nurture an environment in which implementation is possible. Effective implementation, says the report, requires active engagement with local communities, families, and children; empowered governments taking a leadership role in governing alternative care provision; and cooperative, accountable, non-state organisations.