From walls to homes: Child care reform and deinstitutionalisation in Ghana

Kwabena Frimpong-Manso - International Journal of Social Welfare

In 2006, the Ghanaian government, in partnership with UNICEF, began to reform the child welfare system. The main aim of this reform was to provide a sustainable and culturally appropriate system of care for children without parental care by shifting from an institutional-based model to a family- and community-based one. Drawing on existing peer-reviewed and grey literature, this article provides an overview of the major components of the reform, including reintegration with the extended family, foster care and adoption. In addition, the article discusses the prospects and challenges involved in achieving the reform's intended component.

The review demonstrated that overall, the 5-year care reform initiative was not successful in achieving many of its targets. It was unable to substantially reduce the residential care facilities in the country or increase the number of children reintegrated into family-based care, as it intended. Two key messages emerged from the review of the literature. As in Central and Eastern Europe, the main challenge to reform in Ghana was the Department of Social Welfare's lack of financial and human resources. In order to reap the savings from deinstitutionalisation, there must be an initial substantial financial investment by governments to provide family support to vulnerable families and financial assistance to offset costs for foster and kinship carers. Secondly, it is not realistic or safe to expect a quick movement from residential to family-based care, as a rapid transition could further damage or stigmatise children.