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
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.
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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Study Title: Enhancing Ugandan HIV-Affected child development with caregiver training
Context: Children up to the age of 5 years affected by HIV are the most vulnerable subgroup of HIV populations globally, especially in low-resource areas. This is because of the strategic, volatile, and vulnerable nature of this highly sensitive period of child development. Mediational intervention for sensitizing caregivers (MISC) has a structured training program to enable caregivers to improve their children’s cognitive and social development during everyday casual interactions in the home.In our preliminary NIMH R34 findings, Ugandan HIV children of caregivers receiving MISC training biweekly for a year showed significantly greater gains on the Mullen Early Learning Scales Composite of g fluid intelligence, when compared to children whose caregivers received a standard health/nutrition education intervention (treatment as usual or TAU). The MISC caregivers were also significantly less depressed, and their child mortality that year was significantly lower.
Study Aims: Study Aim 1 will evaluate if MISC significantly enhances child outcomes when compared to controls for both HIV-positive and orphan children when assessed from baseline to 6, 12, and 18 months. Study Aim 2 will evaluate if MISC significantly enhances caregiver EWB and daily functioning outcomes. To better understand the mechanisms of MISC-enhanced child development, a Secondary Aim is to evaluate the mediating effect of improved caregiver EWB outcomes on corresponding child development gains, and the modifying effects of caregiver HIV illness and functioning on child outcomes.
Methods: One hundred Ugandan HIV-positive preschool and 200 HIV orphan caregiver/child dyads will be enlisted from Kayunga and Pallisa Districts. These dyads will be randomly assigned by village clusters to either biweekly MISC or health/nutrition education TAU intervention for one year. Child Outcomes are the child development gains on the Mullen, the Early Childhood Vigilance Test (ECVT) of attention, and the Color- Object Association Test (COAT) of memory, the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning – Preschool (BRIEF-P), and the caregiver administered version of the Achenbach CBCL. Caregiver Outcomes include an array of emotional wellbeing (EWB) and daily functioning measures validated during the initial qualitative study phase.
Implications: The Overall Impact comes from establishing the feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of MISC for HIV orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and their caregivers in low resource settings; the sustainability of MISC in low resource settings since it is not dependent on published materials or outside resources; the complementary dual impact of significant psychotherapeutic benefit for the caregiver, especially mothers struggling with HIV disease. MISC will also reduce HIV child mortality because in our initial R34 findings, MISC heightened maternal bonding, sensitivity to serious illness, and the prompter seeking of medical care. It also can improve treatment adherence. Finally, our evidence-based MISC caregiver training interventions can be readily implemented globally as a sustainable way to augment OVC cognitive, psychosocial, and medical wellbeing.
Public Health Relevance: Early childhood (up to age 5 yrs) is a period of dramatic change in the cognitive, emotional, social, and behavioral domains; children continuously progress by observing and interacting with the world around them. In the face of economic instability and nutritional, medical and educational deprivation, HIV-affected very young children are the most vulnerable HIV subgroup globally because their families are often the most vulnerable, with little margin for sustaining a favorable developmental milieu for the child. Through strategic caregiver interventions during this sensitive period of child neurodevelopment, our study findings have the potential for positively re-directing the developmental trajectories of tens of millions of HIV-affected children globally.
Principal Investigator: Michael J. Boivin (Michigan State University)
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Study Title: Cognitive and psychosocial benefit of caregiver training for Ugandan HIV children
Context: A decade after the end of apartheid, the well-being of South African children is still in a precarious state. Nearly 70% of the nation’s Black African children live in households with incomes less than $2000 per year. The HIV/AIDS prevalence rate for pregnant women attending public antenatal services is over 30%. And, by 2010, 19% of South African children will have experienced the death of one or both parents, half due to AIDS.
Study Aims: In response to this crisis, the overarching objective of the proposed project is to conduct a short-term, longitudinal, multi-level study of 6000 7- to 10-year-olds and their parents/parent surrogates in 60 urban and rural South African communities in KwaZulu-Natal. We posit three specific aims. AIM 1. Examine the associations between a) a set of major household risk factors and a set of adverse childhood experiences; and between b) the occurrence and nature of adverse childhood experiences and child psychosocial, health and educational outcomes. AIM 2. Explore the degree to which selected factors at multiple levels moderate the influence of major household risk factors on adverse childhood experiences, and adverse childhood experiences on key child outcomes. AIM 3. Test the effects of a major social policy innovation Conditional Cash Transfers on household and childhood risk factors (directly) and children’s well-being (indirectly). This project is a collaboration of researchers at New York University in the U.S. and the Human Sciences Research Council in South Africa in cooperation with the South African government and the World Bank. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE The results of this study have two main implications for public health. First, one set of results will indicate whether Conditional Cash Transfers can improve the health, education and well-being of poor South African children in high HIV/AIDS prevalence communities. Second, another set of results can inform the design of new public health and social policy strategies to support households in AIDS-affected communities.
Prinicipal Investigator: J. Lawrence Aber (New York University)
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Title: Difference in psychosocial well-being between paternal and maternal AIDS orphans in rural China
Authors: Qun Zhao, Xiaoming Li, Xiaoyi Fang, Guoxiang Zhao, Junfeng Zhao, Xiuyun Lin, Bonita Stanton
Abstract: This study compares psychosocial well-being between paternal and maternal orphans in rural China in a sample (n = 459) of children who had lost one parent to HIV and who were in family-based care. Measures included academic marks, education expectation, trusting relationships with current caregivers, self-reported health status, depression, loneliness, posttraumatic stress, and social support. No significant differences were reported between maternal and paternal orphans, except that paternal orphans reported better trusting relationships with caregivers than maternal orphans. Children with a healthy surviving parent reported significantly better scores for depression, loneliness, posttraumatic stress, and social support than children with a sick parent. Analyses showed significance with regard to orphan status on academic marks and trusting relationships with caregivers while controlling for age, gender, surviving parent’s health status, and family socioeconomic status. Results underscore the importance of psychosocial support for children whose surviving parent is living with HIV or another illness.
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Title: The Potential for Successful Family Foster Care: Conceptualizing Competency Domains for Foster Parents
The potential to foster successfully starts with developing and supporting competency in 12 domains: (1) providing a safe and secure environment; (2) providing a nurturing environment; (3) promoting educational attainment and success; (4) meeting physical and mental healthcare needs; (5) promoting social and emotional development; (6) supporting diversity and children’s cultural needs; (7) supporting permanency planning; (8) managing ambiguity and loss for the foster child and family; (9) growing as a foster parent; (10) managing the demands of fostering on personal and familial well-being; (11) supporting relationships between children and their families; and (12) working as a team member. This article describes each domain and reviews relevant research to help guide the assessment of practicing and future foster parents.
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Study Title: Pathways to health and well-being: social networks of orphans and abandoned youth
Context: Globally, 153 million children are estimated to have been orphaned as defined by the death of one or both parents due to diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, maternal mortality, unintentional injuries, natural disasters and armed conflict: AIDS accounts for 16.6 million of these children. Little is known, however, about the social networks that have been informally established that may assist orphaned and abandoned children (OAC) as they transition from structured family care or residential facility settings to their adult lives.
Study aims: The primary goal of this study is to determine key factors that may put youth at a disadvantage as they transition from structured care settings into their adult lives and those that support positive transitions. To accomplish this, researchers will study existing education and employment support networks as well as sexual communities. Researchers will then be able to determine how certain characteristics of these networks are associated with OAC health outcomes, including poor education, ability to generate income, and HIV risk-taking behaviors. Based on prior OAC-related research, this study expects to find that OAC networks are small and lack variability, leading to reduced access to education, fewer positive employment opportunities, and increased sexual-risk behavior. Findings will be used to construct potential interventions to promote OAC health and well-being.
Methods: This study will use a “network analysis approach” to identify major characteristics of OAC social and sexual networks. Researchers will then examine the association between network factors and OAC outcomes in two steps: examining the relationships between social network characteristics and education and income-generation outcomes, and between sexual network characteristics and HIV-risk outcomes. Researchers expect to learn which social and sexual network features are associated with poor outcomes, such as educational accomplishment, obtaining employment, and high sexual risk behavior. Such risk behaviors include an early age of sexual debut, a high number of sexual partners, and certain characteristics of the sexual partners themselves. This research will provide the basis for designing interventions to prevent disenfranchisement as OAC enter their adult lives. With this research, we will be able to learn how to effectively design community networks for OAC to prevent poor health and lifestyle outcomes.
- To determine if OAC network features account for success in educational, income generation, and sexual risk-taking behaviors
- To provide the basis for social network and sexual network interventions to reduce damage done to OAC to prevent disenfranchisement as OAC become adults.
Principal Investigator: Lynne Messer (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), Jim Moody (Duke University), Vanroth Vann (Homeland, Cambodia), Augustine Wasonga (ACE Africa, Kenya), Kathryn Whetten (Duke University), Rachel Whetten (Duke University)
Contact: [email protected]
Study Title: Randomized Controlled Trial of Ways to Improve OVC HIV Prevention and Well-Being (Zambia CBT)
Context: With millions of youth orphaned by AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa undergoing high levels of stress-related problems—such as interpersonal and problem-solving skills deficits, unhealthy thoughts, and maladaptive behaviors—addressing trauma and stress is a pressing need. Addressing these stressors is especially important in preventing the spread of HIV by reducing stress-induced risky sexual behaviors among orphaned and vulnerable children. Other studies have shown that cognitive behavior therapy interventions, when adapted for local environments, have been effective in addressing such stress-related problems.
Study Aims: This study will focus on comparing the effectiveness of psychosocial counseling (PC) and trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT). The study will primarily compare the effectiveness of psychosocial counseling and trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy in addressing the stress-related problems among orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC). In addition, the study will examine the effectiveness of these two major types of treatment in reducing sexual risk behaviors while accounting for factors that mediate and moderate HIV risk behaviors. Finally, this study will compare the cost-effectiveness of the two treatment methods.
Methods: This study, which is being conducted in Zambia, utilizes a randomized controlled trial of psychosocial counseling and trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, which has been utilized in other previous and ongoing studies. The major outcomes that this study will analyze include HIV risk behaviors, emotional and behavioral health, social support, overall well-being and mental health development of OVC. Researchers will recruit adolescents aged 13-17 who report risky sexual behavior, including recent sex without a condom. Adolescent participants and their caregivers will be assessed utilizing a computerized interviewing program that will enhance privacy and honesty of responses.
- This study will provide necessary scientific evidence on the feasibility, effectiveness, and cost effectiveness of interventions for OVC affected by HIV/AIDS.
- Results from this study will help inform efficient program design, policy, and effectiveness of interventions for preventing HIV among OVC living in low-resource settings.
M-Principal Investigators: Laura Murray (Johns Hopkins University) and Paul Bolton (Harvard University)
Investigators: Judith Cohen (University of Pittsburg), Shannon Dorsey (University of Washington), Kathryn Whetten (Duke University),
Contact Information: [email protected]
Study Title: Child transitions from residential facilities to other communities: predictors of child wellbeing
Context: Globally, one hundred and fifty three million children are estimated to have been orphaned as defined by the death of one or both parents due to diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, and cancers, maternal mortality, unintentional injuries, natural disasters and armed conflict: AIDS accounts for 16.6 million of these children. We can anticipate that numbers of orphaned children will increase with factors such as economic declines, decreased agricultural output due to environmental changes and increased natural disasters. In Ethiopia, an estimated 650,000 children have lost one or both parents to AIDS. The majority of orphaned children and children whose biological parents have left them are cared for by the remaining parent, other family members, or non-relatives in family settings: a small proportion live in residential facilities
Study Aims: The primary goal of this pilot study is to understand the emotional and physical well-being of children transitioning out of residential care to better inform good policy and practice on the protection of children. The intent is to understand factors associated with positive and negative transition outcomes. Care transitions occur for a variety of reasons, such as family placement, aging out (reaching the maximum age allowed in residential facilities), child self-initiated departures, community or family initiated retrievals, residential facility initiated expulsions, and residential facility closures. This study attempts to assess children’s mental and physical well-being while still living in residential care and then follow them out of residential facility care into other living environments.
Methods: This initial study is designed to determine the feasibility of finding, following and maintaining communication with children as they leave residential facilities, to examine the different living environments they transition into, and to examine if there are trends or associations in how well transitions are made. In particular, pre-transition child characteristics (e.g., age of entry into residential care, years in residential care, age at placement in a community setting), facility characteristics, transition planning characteristics, community placement characteristics, and child wellbeing outcomes will be analyzed and compared to data from matched controls in community-family settings. Short-term descriptive information such as documenting the range of living environments children transition into is vital. However, short-term outcomes may not reflect longer-term physical or emotional trends. If the pilot study methodology proves successful, i.e., children are able to be followed over time and useful measurements obtained, a longer, multi-country longitudinal study will be proposed.
- To examine the positive and negative physical and mental health trajectories of children and young adults transitioning out of residential facility care for a variety of reasons, including residential facility closures, aging out and self-other initiated departures.
- To determine how different types of residential facility-to-community transition experiences (e.g., types of preparation, planning process, availability of resources) affect children and families’ mental and physical wellbeing.
- To better understand associations between characteristics of the residential facilities and post-residential facility care, and child emotional, physical and social well-being before and after re-location.
- If the pilot study methodology proves successful and children are able to be followed over time, researchers may propose a larger multi-country study.
Principal Investigator: Sumi Ariely (Duke University)
Investigators: Misganaw Eticha (Stand for the Vulnerable Organization, Ethiopia), Charles Nelson (Harvard University), Jan Ostermann (Duke University), Lorraine Sherr (University College London), Kathryn Whetten (Duke University), Rachel Whetten (Duke University)
Project Coordinator: Andrew Goodall
Contact Information: [email protected]