Guardianship of orphans and vulnerable children: a survey of current and prospective South African caregivers
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Increasing numbers of orphaned and vulnerable children resulting from AIDS deaths requires practical placement strategies. While the extended family is regarded as both the most likely and the preferred option by most key planners and organizations, warnings of the limitations of this alternative have been increasing. This study assessed the views of 1400 adults (both current and prospective caregivers) regarding the placement of children. Most current caregivers believed that either their partner (30%), a grandparent (25%) or another family member (33%) would look after the child/children if they were no longer able to. However, 12% of parents could not identify a carer or predicted only a bleak future for their children. There was strong willingness amongst adults of various relational proximity to take in children if required to 71% of both fathers and grandparents, 63% of siblings and 23% of best friends said they would take in children. Nonetheless this research suggests that the willingness may not necessarily be translated into reality. Most prospective caregivers identified significant additional stressors (most importantly financial) and expressed a strong need for assistance if they were to take in additional children. The HIV status of the child is also likely to sway placement decisions for some people. Nonetheless opportunities to keep children in families are clearly high, but people will need considerable help to realize this potential. For some children alternatives other than the extended family will be required.