Why Is Family Care Important?

Consistently, academic evidence from around the world has found that children cared for within families are more likely to thrive than those in residential care. Nurturing family environments are associated with positive outcomes for children’s growth and development, and positive interaction between a child and parent or other primary caregiver significantly impacts the development of the brain. Longitudinal research and neuroscience have also noted negative long-term, often irrecoverable impacts of institutional care on children’s physical health and brain growth; cognitive, emotional, social, and language development; and ability to form healthy attachments. The severity of these effects increases with the child’s length of stay, and the effects are most critical in younger children, especially those under three years of age.

Accompanying this academic evidence base is a growing movement among faith-based organizations that recognizes every child’s right to have a family, and that strives to ensure that children are cared for within families, rather than in residential care. Throughout Scripture there is evidence of God’s deep care for orphans, and His plan for family to be a child’s most important source of love, attention, emotional support, and spiritual guidance.

A strong academic and scriptural evidence base provides a foundation for raising awareness about the importance of family care with key stakeholders whose understanding and support are vital to a smooth transition process.

Children, Orphanages, and Families: A Summary of Research to Help Guide Faith-Based Action Provides an overview of a range of studies and findings that can inform approaches to caring for children who have been separated from parental care. Summarizes key overall findings, while also providing examples within specific countries or regions; evidence demonstrating the importance of family care; research on the limitations of orphanages; and an overview of family-based care and strategies to strengthen families. (Faith to Action Initiative)

Families Not Orphanages: Better Care Network Working Paper Examines the mismatch between children’s needs and the realities and long-term effects of residential institutions, available evidence on the typical reasons why children end up in institutions, and the consequences and costs of providing this type of care compared to other options. (Williamson, J., and Greenberg, A.)

Children in Institutions: The Risks Provides a one-page quick reference factsheet on children in institutions and the risks to their health and development of residential care. (Lumos)

Kinnected Info Pack Provides background to help faith-based organizations to engage in deinstitutionalization and noninstitution services for children, and outlines the process, stages of the process for organizational change, and lessons learned. (ACCI Relief)

The Risk of Harm to Young People in Institutional Care Summarizes the extent and scale of young children living without parents in residential care “children’s homes,” and the reasons they are there. The paper also includes information on the global situation of all children in residential care. A research-based overview of the risk of harm to young children’s care and development after being placed in orphanages is provided. (Browne, K.)

Webinar and Videos

Webinar 1: The Importance of Family Highlights key orphan and vulnerable children statistics, reasons for placement in orphanages, and findings on the importance of family and limitations of orphanages; and highlights Faith to Action resources for further information. (Faith to Action Initiative)

A World Without Orphans: A Documentary Dialogue to Engage the Church in the Pursuit of a World Without Orphans Features discussion with people on the front lines of orphan care that is meant to encourage the Church to dialogue about its role in the pursuit of a world without orphans. (World Without Orphans)

Global Institutions Are Not the Answer Offers the video and audio stories of caring for children in families from a Christian perspective. (Bethany Christian Services)

We All Need Families at the End of the Day – Maureen Tells the story of a young girl who was separated from her family and sent to live in a children’s home, and her desire to reunite with her grandparents. Features interviews with experts, including those who have lived in children’s homes, and highlights the efforts of care reform initiatives to deinstitutionalize children in Kenya. (Better Care Network)

Children Need Families Not Orphanages Illustrates the limitations of orphanages and makes the case that more can and should be done to support families to care for their children, eliminating the use of institutional care. (Lumos)

The Orphan Myth: Keeping Families Together A special documentary episode of To the Contrary explores the trend away from orphanages and toward family reunification. (PBS’s To the Contrary)

More Resources