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The care of children matters to all of us. But today there are millions of children around the world that are not cared for adequately. It is a global crisis and one that will only get worse. There are an estimated 151 million children worldwide with either one or both parents dead, with at least 13 million of these children having lost both parents (UNICEF 2013).

Everybody wants to go home to live with their parents so they can give you love and attention.” (10-year-old girl living in residential care in Guyana)

Adequate care means that children grow up in a permanent, safe and caring family. Many children are separated from their families because they cannot afford to care for them. Other move to attend school or access health services unavailable to them at home.

“Life in an orphanage is not a life.” (Akiki, Rwanda)

Children that aren’t cared for adequately are less likely to attend or do well in school, they are less able to access health and other basic services, and they are more likely to engage in anti-social and criminal behaviours. The lack of care affects their physical, emotional and cognitive development and can sometimes even be life-threatening. This in turn has an impact on society as the future prospects of children without adequate care are often severely limited. As adults, they are often less able to access employment, more likely to experience poverty and more likely to be dependent on the state. Inadequate care can hinder efforts towards development targets such as growth, employment, poverty reduction, health, education and humanitarian preparedness and response.

Children have rights and these rights have already been translated into global guidance endorsed by the UN. But improving the care of children requires major efforts and political will. Investment in vulnerable families and communities are needed to strengthen their ability to care for their own children. Investments must also be made in quality, family-based, alternative care. Families living in poverty need greater access to social protection and basic services. It also means giving children without adequate care a stronger voice and raising awareness of their needs. Ensuring that all children are adequately cared for is within our reach.

Our recommendations:

  • Build an in-depth understanding of care in each context, and develop locally appropriate responses.
  • Make the care of children a political and financial priority.
  • Ensure broader development and humanitarian work reinforces the effective care of children.
  • Increase the coverage and quality of social protection in order to strengthen the capacity of families to care for children.
  • Ensure that each country adheres to the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children.

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