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WHY NOT ORPHANAGES?

Currently, the number of children’s homes operating in Ghana is estimated by OA at 148, although at present, only ten of them are registered at the Department of Social Welfare. Exact details on the breakdown of the population of these homes will be available upon the presentation of the results of the data collection exercise which  took place in Phase 1 of the CRI

The high rate of establishment of these institutions over the past few years has been a matter of concern to DSW for the following reasons, all of which have been underlined in the preliminary results of the data collection exercise..

  1. Tendency to house children in residential homes without exploring alterative within the extended family and community.
  2. Poor management of the establishments as they operate without annual budgets or financial planning
  3. Poor carer to child ratio
  4. They are unable to engage the services of qualified child care personnel.
  5. Lack of adequate bedding and space, food, medication, academic and training facilities for the children.
  6. Failure to comply with the minimum standards for the operation of children’s homes.
  7. Arbitrary expulsion of children when the homes experience financial stress

The DSW has observed that the operations of most of these children’s homes do not conform to the required minimum international and national standards as stipulated in the following documents:

  1. Children’s Acts 560 (1998)
  2. The UN Committee of the Rights of the Child (1990)
  3. Guidelines for the Operation of Children’s Homes (2004)
  4. Joint Working Paper of UNICEF and International Social Service (2004)
  5. UN Guidelines for the Protection and Alternative Care of Children without Parental Care. (To be approved)
  6. Legislative Instrument

Children who must necessarily live out-of-home normally find themselves in very distressed conditions in some of these Children’s Homes. The vulnerability of these children stems from the fact that they need additional support and care following the trauma of separation. Failure to support them may expose them to various forms of abuses, or human rights violations, which could adversely affect them for the rest of their lives.

It has furthermore been proved, by extensive international research on the consequences of residential care for children, (notably undertaken by Unicef, International Social Services, and Save the Children) that institutions should be used only as a last resort. Children need families to successfully integrate and thrive in the society, as the family is the best context for a child to successfully develop.

DSW has the responsibility of intensifying the monitoring of the activities of these establishments to ensure that they comply with their requirements. To be able to do this effectively, DSW must mobilize appropriate human and material resources to enable them to cover all the regions and districts on a consistent basis.

Some of the problems that have been identified for children living in residential care settings in general are:

  • Homes often limit contact with family and community
  • Children living in Homes are stigmatized by the larger society
  • Children living in Homes do not develop social networks in their community
  • Their right to privacy is invaded
  • Ethnic and religious identities are compromised: minorities are brought up in the belief system of the majority
  • Homes provide little stimulation, and children, especially babies, often fail to reach developmental milestones and develop normally (Arousal –Relaxation Syndrome)
  • Institutionalization is expensive; the per capita cost of raising a child is often 5 to 10 times more than in foster care, for example. This is because of infrastructure costs and additional personnel such as administration, security etc
  • Homes are unable to respond to the psychological needs of children who require an adult of reference and consistency of care, to become emotionally stable adults in later years.
  • Neglect
  • Unmonitored homes often veer from charity to commercial status
  • Homes are often overcrowded
  • Homes allow duties within the institution to take precedence over schoolwork
  • Children lack opportunities for free play
  • Children lack opportunities to express their views and forge their individual identities
  • There is often lack of consistency in treatment and privileges
  • Children’s interpersonal skills become limited because of lack of exposure to daily life
  • Children grow up with a feeling of being unloved
  • Children with disabilities do not receive appropriate care in group settings
  • Abuse and child labour are facilitated by a institutional setting

On account of the foregoing, the DSW wishes to initiate a process to intensify the monitoring of the activities of children’s homes to ensure that these establishments operate satisfactorily as required by the rules and regulations governing their operations. This is especially important as regards to gate keeping, as recent data collection has proved that most of the children in Homes need not be there at all. Most, and in line with local customs, have extended families willing to care from them, if they can be empowered to do so, through programmes such as LEAP. Most of the small portion of remaining children   can be adopted or fostered.

During the first year of the CRI, all home owners in the country were trained in child rights, the data collection was effectuated, legislation was designed and District Social workers were trained on de-institutionalization.


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