General Secretariat

Protecting Children and Uniting Families Across Borders for 97 years

Children with Disabilities in Institutional Care

What are the needs?

ISS has a long-standing experience visiting institutions and orphanages in over 20 countries, and two key issues were regularly observed:

  1. There are very few actual "orphans" residing in orphanages. Most children in residential care still have at least one living parent. For example, in Haiti, 80% of children still have a family, and in Vietnam, 60% of children with disabilities still have family links.
  2. Children with disabilities are among the last to benefit from programs enabling them to leave institutions and are more likely to be left behind in orphanages. UNICEF also agrees with this observation in 'The State of the World's Children 2013' report.

Research also indicates that residential care can have a devastating impact on a child brain development leading to life-long negative implications. Even well-intentioned and well-managed institutions can never replace the love, support and stability that children need to form secure attachments that are critical for their overall development.

ISS is convinced that numerous children, including children with disabilities, cared for in institutions could also get a chance to live in a family environment by combining efforts from professionals and officials at different levels and targeted training.

What is the solution?

CWD 1

Sustainable Development Goals

CWD 2

Project Summary

Through its global project, A better future is possible, ISS aims to strengthen the capacity of staff in orphanages, families, and communities to improve the care for children, with a specific focus on children with disabilities (CWD), so they can be successfully placed with their family and community. Healthy and well-cared children are more likely to be reunited with their family or adopted, hence their daily care must improve. The project strengthens the staff's capacity to learn and implement social work activities as well as to improve daily care, nutrition and feeding practices.

Furthermore, families and communities need to be supported and empowered so that they can provide the optimal level of care for their children.

We also assist governments in our partner countries in their care reform to progressively phase out residential care institutions and promote family setting for all children (including CWD) through family reintegration and family-based care. A better future is possible is currently being implemented in the following countries: Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Cambodia, Vietnam and Haiti.

"Once you have built a care system for children with disabilities, you have built a system for all children."

Our Objectives

CWD 3

In each partner country, we have two main objectives:

  1. To improve quality care within residential care. We provide targeted training to develop the staff's capacity to learn and implement social work activities mainly focusing on case management, case planning and adapting the process for family reunification, kinship and foster care. We also train staff to improve individual daily care through proper nutrition, safe feeding and adapted stimulation of the child.
  2. To develop national family care options adapted for children with disabilities. In direct collaboration with governments, we provide tailored technical assistance according to their strategic plan, context and specific needs of the country.

What has already been achieved?

Since 2014, we are piloting groundbreaking projects that are designed to be sustainable and standardised by national decisions makers and practitioners:

  • We partnered with child welfare authorities and civil society organisations to ensure the continuity of the project and with international partners to share their expertise.
  • We ideated and promoted tools to help local professionals and governments to better identify and take into account the needs of all the children without parental care and especially the needs of children with disabilities.
  • We encouraged the governments to develop inclusive family care options to include children with disabilities in care reform.
  • We promoted the return of children growing up in residential care back to their family whenever possible and if in the best interest of the child.
  • We developed foster care programs adapted for children with disabilities and helpful for all children.
  • We reflect on how to strengthen family support services (essential and specialised) in their communities and improve collaboration between main stakeholders.

This has been possible thanks to our donors:

CWD 4

Our Local Partners:

CWD 5

Our International Partners:

CWD 6

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