Cost-benefit studies of different forms of alternative care demonstrate that it makes good economic sense for governments to invest in family based alternatives rather than residential care. While costs may increase for a temporary period as countries make the shift to family-based care – for example to fund training of social workers, develop social welfare services and establish tracing and foster programmes – in the long run it costs less than keeping children in institutions where funds are required to pay salaries for staff, maintain buildings and provide food and other services. The bottom line is that for the cost of keeping one child in residential care, many more girls and boys can be supported within families.
Funding for care reform involves allocating (or redirecting) resources from institutional care towards a range of family-based care services, investing in the development of a competent social welfare workforce, supporting carers, and providing financial and practical support to children leaving care. It also means investing in programmes that tackle the factors that lead to family separation and children being placed in alternative care – such as poverty, unemployment, disability, health and conflict. This could include promoting access to basic health, education and housing services, developing social protection and financial assistance initiatives, and working to strengthen families through parenting education or counselling.
Governments also need to make a commitment to putting in place licensing and regulation mechanisms to ensure that funding of care is motivated by children’s best interest rather than the financial benefit of the provider – and that resources are directed towards families rather than institutions. Unfortunately in many countries, there are vested interests in admitting or keeping children within formal care (particularly residential facilities) for profit-making, and large numbers of private care facilities operate outside the control of authorities.
The literature in this section focuses on budget and cost analysis pertaining to children’s care, including preventive services to support family based care and the provision of a range of alternative care options.