Tag: orphan

Title: Evaluation of the orphans reunification project in Eritrea

Authors: E Morah, S Mebrathu, K Sebhatu

Date: 1998


The evidence clearly shows that the status of assisted orphans compares favorably with that of non-orphans, thus indicating that the psychosocial integration between the host families and the orphans has been successful. Although orphan boys were indicated to be slightly better off, the gender differences were not dramatic. Substantial evidence also suggests that the project has built capacities of the relevant government ministry on a number of key areas’  research skills and appreciation of the importance of solid operational research before social interventions, participatory planning, monitoring and management tools, community mobilization and advocacy for child protection. Finally, the reunification project is found to be significantly more cost-effective, psychosocially acceptable and sustainable than the alternative strategy of keeping the children in orphanages.

Title: Family reunification

Author: Fred Wulczyn

Date: 2004

Abstract: Reunifying children placed in foster care with their birth parents is a primary goal of the child welfare system. Yet, relatively little is known about the reunification process. This article analyzes new data on trends in family reunification and discovers: Although most children still exit foster care through family reunification, exit patterns have changed over the last 8 years. Currently, reunification takes longer to happen, whereas adoptions happen earlier. A child’s age and race are associated with the likelihood that he or she will be reunified. Infants and adolescents are less likely to be reunified than children in other age groups, and African-American children are less likely to be reunified than children of other racial/ethnic backgrounds. Although many children who are reunified exit the system within a relatively short period of time, reunifications often do not succeed. Nearly 30% of children who were reunified in 1990 reentered foster care within 10 years. The principle of family reunification is deeply rooted in American law and tradition, and reunification is likely to continue as the most common way children exit foster care. Thus, greater efforts should be made to ensure that reunifications are safe and lasting. The article closes with a discussion of changes in policy and practice that hold promise for improving the safety and stability of reunified families, such as instituting better measures of state performance, and continuing to provide monitoring and supports for families after a child is returned home.

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Title: More than the loss of a parent: Potentially traumatic events among orphaned and abandoned children

Authors: Kathryn Whetten, Jan Ostermann, Rachel Whetten, Karen O’Donnell, Nathan Thielman, and The Positive Outcomes for Orphans Research Team

Date: March 25, 2011

Abstract: This study examines rates of potentially traumatic events and associated anxiety and emotional/behavioral difficulties among 1,258 orphaned and abandoned children in 5 low- and middle-income countries. The study quantifies the types of events the children experienced and demonstrates that anxiety and emotional/behavioral difficulties increase with additional exposure. As policies for orphaned and abandoned children are being implemented, this study helps policy makers and care providers recognize that (a) children and caregivers are willing to report experiences of potentially traumatic events, (b) those who report such events are at higher risk for experiencing additional events, (c) resulting symptomatology indicates a need for appropriate mental health services, and (d) boys are as vulnerable as girls, indicating an equal need for protection.

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Title: Child work and labour among orphaned and abandoned children in five low and middle income countries

Authors: Rachel Whetten, Lynne Messer, Jan Ostermann, Kathryn Whetten, Brian Pence, Megan Buckner, Nathan Thielman, Karen O’Donnell, and The Positive Outcomes for Orphans (POFO) Research Team

Date: Jan. 13, 2011



The care and protection of the estimated 143,000,000 orphaned and abandoned children (OAC) worldwide is of great importance to global policy makers and child service providers in low and middle income countries (LMICs), yet little is known about rates of child labour among OAC, what child and caregiver characteristics predict child engagement in work and labour, or when such work infers with schooling. This study examines rates and correlates of child labour among OAC and associations of child labour with schooling in a cohort of OAC in 5 LMICs.


The Positive Outcomes for Orphans (POFO) study employed a two-stage random sampling survey methodology to identify 1480 single and double orphans and children abandoned by both parents ages 6-12 living in family settings in five LMICs: Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, and Tanzania. Regression models examined child and caregiver associations with: any work versus no work; and with working <21, 21-27, and 28+ hours during the past week, and child labour (UNICEF definition).


The majority of OAC (60.7%) engaged in work during the past week, and of those who worked, 17.8% (10.5% of the total sample) worked 28 or more hours. More than one-fifth (21.9%; 13% of the total sample) met UNICEF’s child labour definition. Female OAC and those in good health had increased odds of working. OAC living in rural areas, lower household wealth and caregivers not earning an income were associated with increased child labour. Child labour, but not working fewer than 28 hours per week, was associated with decreased school attendance.


One in seven OAC in this study were reported to be engaged in child labour. Policy makers and social service providers need to pay close attention to the demands being placed on female OAC, particularly in rural areas and poor households with limited income sources. Programs to promote OAC school attendance may need to focus on the needs of families as well as the OAC.

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Title: Prevalence and predictors of HIV-related stigma among institutional- and community-based caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children living in five less-wealthy countries

Authors: Lynne Messer, Brian Pence, Kathryn Whetten, Rachel Whetten, Nathan Thielman, Karen O’Donnell, Jan Ostermann

Date: 2010



In the face of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that has contributed to the dramatic increase in orphans and abandoned children (OAC) worldwide, caregiver attitudes about HIV, and HIV-related stigma, are two attributes that may affect caregiving. Little research has considered the relationship between caregiver attributes and caregiver-reported HIV-related stigma. In light of the paucity of this literature, this paper will describe HIV-related stigma among caregivers of OAC in five less wealthy nations.


Baseline data were collected between May 2006 through February 2008. The sample included 1,480 community-based and 192 institution-based caregivers. Characteristics of the community-based and institution-based caregivers are described using means and standard deviations for continuous variables or counts and percentages for categorical variables. We fit logistic regression models, both for the full sample and separately for community-based and institution-based caregivers, to explore predictors of acceptance of HIV.


Approximately 80% of both community-based and institution-based caregivers were female; and 84% of institution-based caregivers, compared to 66% of community-based caregivers, said that they would be willing to care for a relative with HIV. Similar proportions were reported when caregivers were asked if they were willing to let their child play with an HIV-infected child. In a multivariable model predicting willingness to care for an HIV-infected relative, adjusted for site fixed effects, being an institution-based caregiver was associated with greater willingness (less stigma) than community-based caregivers. Decreased willingness was reported by older respondents, while willingness increased with greater formal education. In the adjusted models predicting willingness to allow one’s child to play with an HIV-infected child, female gender and older age was associated with less willingness. However, willingness was positively associated with years of formal education.


The caregiver-child relationship is central to a child’s development. OAC already face stigma as a result of their orphaned or abandoned status; the addition of HIV-related stigma represents a double burden for these children. Further research on the prevalence of HIV-related acceptance and stigma among caregivers and implications of such stigma for child development will be critical as the policy community responds to the global HIV/AIDS orphan crisis.

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Title: A Comparison of the Wellbeing of Orphans and Abandoned Children Ages 6–12 in Institutional and Community-Based Care Settings in 5 Less Wealthy Nations

Authors: Kathryn Whetten, Jan Ostermann, Rachel Whetten, Brian Pence, Karen O’Donnell, Lynne Messer, Nathan Thielman, The Positive Outcomes for Orphans (POFO) Research Team

Date: 2009



Leaders are struggling to care for the estimated 143,000,000 orphans and millions more abandoned children worldwide. Global policy makers are advocating that institution-living orphans and abandoned children (OAC) be moved as quickly as possible to a residential family setting and that institutional care be used as a last resort. This analysis tests the hypothesis that institutional care for OAC aged 6–12 is associated with worse health and wellbeing than community residential care using conservative two-tail tests.


The Positive Outcomes for Orphans (POFO) study employed two-stage random sampling survey methodology in 6 sites across 5 countries to identify 1,357 institution-living and 1,480 community-living OAC ages 6–12, 658 of whom were double-orphans or abandoned by both biological parents. Survey analytic techniques were used to compare cognitive functioning, emotion, behavior, physical health, and growth. Linear mixed-effects models were used to estimate the proportion of variability in child outcomes attributable to the study site, care setting, and child levels and institutional versus community care settings. Conservative analyses limited the community living children to double-orphans or abandoned children.

Principal Findings

Health, emotional and cognitive functioning, and physical growth were no worse for institution-living than community-living OAC, and generally better than for community-living OAC cared for by persons other than a biological parent. Differences between study sites explained 2–23% of the total variability in child outcomes, while differences between care settings within sites explained 8–21%. Differences among children within care settings explained 64–87%. After adjusting for sites, age, and gender, institution vs. community-living explained only 0.3–7% of the variability in child outcomes.


This study does not support the hypothesis that institutional care is systematically associated with poorer wellbeing than community care for OAC aged 6–12 in those countries facing the greatest OAC burden. Much greater variability among children within care settings was observed than among care settings type. Methodologically rigorous studies must be conducted in those countries facing the new OAC epidemic in order to understand which characteristics of care promote child wellbeing. Such characteristics may transcend the structural definitions of institutions or family homes.

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Title: A Brief Assessment of Learning for Orphaned and Abandoned Children in Low and Middle Income Countries

Authors: Karen O’Donnell, Robert Murphy, Jan Ostermann, Max Masnick, Rachel A. Whetten, Elisabeth Madden, Nathan M. Thielman, Kathryn Whetten and The Positive Outcomes for Orphans (POFO) Research Team

Date: 2012

Abstract: Assessment of children’s learning and performance in low and middle income countries has been critiqued as lacking a gold standard, an appropriate norm reference group, and demonstrated applicability of assessment tasks to the context. This study was designed to examine the performance of three nonverbal and one adapted verbal measure of children’s problem solving, memory, motivation, and attention across five culturally diverse sites. The goal was to evaluate the tests as indicators of individual differences affected by life events and care circumstances for vulnerable children. We conclude that the measures can be successfully employed with fidelity in non-standard settings in LMICs, and are associated with child age and educational experience across the settings. The tests can be useful in evaluating variability in vulnerable child outcomes.

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Title: Psychological distress amongst AIDS-orphaned children in urban South Africa

Authors: Lucie Cluver, Frances Gardner, Don Operario

Date: 2007

Abstract: BACKGROUND: South Africa is predicted to have 2.3 million children orphaned by Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) by 2020 (Actuarial Society of South Africa, 2005). There is little knowledge about impacts of AIDS-related bereavement on children, to aid planning of services. This study aimed to investigate psychological consequences of AIDS orphanhood in urban township areas of Cape Town, South Africa, compared to control groups of children and adolescents orphaned by other causes, and non-orphans. METHOD: One thousand and twenty-five children and adolescents (aged 10-19) were interviewed using socio-demographic questionnaires and standardised scales for assessing depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, peer problems, delinquency and conduct problems. RESULTS: Controlling for socio-demographic factors such as age, gender, formal/informal dwelling and age at orphanhood, children orphaned by AIDS were more likely to report symptoms of depression, peer relationship problems, post-traumatic stress, delinquency and conduct problems than both children orphaned by other causes and non-orphaned children. Anxiety showed no differences. AIDS-orphaned children were more likely to report suicidal ideation. Compared to Western norms, AIDS-orphaned children showed higher levels of internalizing problems and delinquency, but lower levels of conduct problems. CONCLUSIONS: Children orphaned by AIDS may be a particularly vulnerable group in terms of emotional and, to a lesser extent, behavioural problems. Intervention programs are necessary to ameliorate the psychological sequelae of losing a parent to AIDS.

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Title: Posttraumatic stress in AIDS-orphaned children exposed to high levels of trauma: the protective role of perceived social support

Authors: Lucie Cluver, Dylan S Fincham, Soroya Seedat

Date: 2009

Abstract: Poor urban children in South Africa are exposed to multiple community traumas, but AIDS-orphaned children are at particular risk for posttraumatic stress. This study examined the hypothesis that social support may moderate the relationship between trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress for this group. Four hundred twenty-five AIDS-orphaned children were interviewed using standardized measures of psychopathology. Compared to participants with low perceived social support, those with high perceived social support demonstrated significantly lower levels of PTSD symptoms after both low and high levels of trauma exposure. This suggests that strong perception of social support from carers, school staff, and friends may lessen deleterious effects of exposure to trauma, and could be a focus of intervention efforts to improve psychological outcomes for AIDS-orphaned children.

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Title: Orphanhood and Completion of Compulsory School Education Among Young People in South Africa: Findings From a National Representative Survey

Authors: Don Operario, Lucie Cluver, Helen Rees, Catherine MacPhail, Audrey Pettifor

Date: Feb. 21, 2008

Abstract: We examined the association of orphanhood and completion of compulsory school education among young people in South Africa. In South Africa, school attendance is compulsory through grade 9, which should be completed before age 16. However, family and social factors such as orphanhood and poverty can hinder educational attainment. Participants were 10,452 16–24-year-olds who completed a South African national representative household survey. Overall, 23% had not completed compulsory school levels. In univariate analyses, school completion was lower among those who had experienced orphanhood during school-age years, males, and those who reported household poverty. In multivariate analyses controlling for household poverty, females who had experienced maternal or paternal orphanhood were less likely to have completed school; orphanhood was not independently associated with males’ school completion. Findings highlight the need for evidence-informed policies to address the education and social welfare needs of orphans and vulnerable youth, particularly females, in South Africa.

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