Positive Outcomes for Orphans (POFO)

Study Title: Positive Outcomes for Orphans (POFO): Longitudinal study of orphaned and abandoned children (OAC) from ages 6-12 to ages 15-21 living in 6 diverse settings 

Context: International policymakers are struggling to find solutions for the estimated 153 million children worldwide who have had at least one parent die, largely due to high mortality rates from conditions such as malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and pregnancy complications. Millions more do not know the whereabouts of their parents. In light of the large presence of orphaned and abandoned children, especially in low- and middle-income countries continued research is needed that allows policy makers and providers to understand and develop locally feasible and appropriate ways to care for the children.

Study Aims: Positive Outcomes for Orphans (POFO) is longitudinal study conducted in five countries over a period of 9-10 years thanks to 2 consecutive National Institutes of Child Health and Development (NICHD) funded studies. OAC were ages 6-12 at baseline and will be ages 15-21 at the conclusion of the study. This unique population-based study is the only one of its kind that follows orphaned and abandoned children (OAC) for up to 9 years in culturally and structurally diverse settings allowing for a glimpse into what current care options are and the effects of that care and other life events over time on: health, cognition, emotion, educational attainment, labor force participation (including forced labor), sexual risk taking, marital patterns and community engagement. 

Methods: OAC ages 6-12 and living in family settings were recruited from six diverse study areas in five countries: Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Bungoma District (Kenya), Kilimanjaro Region  (Tanzania), Battambang District (Cambodia), and Hyderabad and Nagaland  (India) (N=1480). The sampling strategy involved the selection of 50 sampling areas (‘‘clusters’’) at each site and five OAC from each cluster. From comprehensive lists of residential facilities in study area, 83 facilities were randomly selected for including in the study with 1,357 OAC then randomly selected from lists of children of the appropriate age from each facility. Baseline assessments were collected for children and caregivers being in May 2006: enrollment continued for 22 months. OAC were defined as children who had at least one parent die or who were abandoned by both parents. In households with multiple eligible children, one child was selected as the child whose first name started with the earliest letter in the alphabet. Interviews with children’s self-identified primary caregivers were conducted in their respective native language in the child’s residence. Six-month follow-up assessments were conducted in 5 of the 6 study sites and 12-months follow-up assessments in all sites. Interview windows for follow-up assessments were open from one month prior to two months after the scheduled follow-up date.

Policy Implications:

  • The study seeks to determine which environmental characteristics (e.g. home, community, culture, social networks, etc.) promote positive and negative outcomes for OAC as they transition through to young adulthood. With this knowledge, more appropriate local, national and international policies can be created for this age group and appropriate care options can be more actively supported.
  • The study will seek to examine how personal factors, including life events, (e.g. number of potentially traumatic events experienced, emotional health, and cognitive development) affect orphans and identify potential interventions that could improve outcomes for the adult lives of orphans.

Principal Investigator: Kathryn Whetten (Duke University)

Investigators: Bernard Agala (Duke University), Cyrilla Amanya (ACE Africa, Kenya), Misganaw Eticha (SVO Ethiopia), Amy Hobbie (Duke University), Dafrosa Itemba (TAWREF, Tanzania), Rachel Manongi (KCMC, Tanzania), Lynne Messer (Duke University), (KCMC, Tanzania), Karen O’Donnell (Duke University), Jan Ostermann (Duke University), Brian Pence (Duke University), Nathan Thielman (Duke University), Vanroth Vann (Homeland, Cambodia), Augustine Wasonga (ACE Africa, Kenya), Rachel Whetten (Duke University)

Contact Information: [email protected]

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