What is alternative care for children?

Our society has evolved from those days when every child had someone to help raise them in the event of their becoming orphaned or being without adequate parental care. Nowadays, many children find themselves in a state where there is literally no one to help raise them when they face situations mentioned above. One of two things then happens: a) either the state steps in to facilitate other care options for the child or children or, b) other individuals, family members, friends or members of the community make informal arrangements to take care of the children. Both scenarios mentioned here have become a common occurrence in Eswatini. This is called alternative care for children.

Convention on the Rights of the Child

Sets out basic State obligations for states to play their role in ensuring the protection and well-being of all children. However, it does not provide significant guidance on how to meet the needs of children in need of alternative care (where the child has lost parental care or is at risk of losing parental care).

UN Guidelines on Alternative Care

This is why, in 2004, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child developed the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children. Member states like Eswatini then developed their own National Guidelines on Alternative Care in 2009.

Alternative care

Alternative care is any arrangement, formal or informal, temporary or permanent, for a child who is living away from his or her parents. This can be overnight care of a child provided by persons or entities, for any reason other than for recreational purposes.
According to the Swaziland National Guidelines on Alternative Care (2009), alternative care refers to formal or informal care arrangements where a child is looked after for at least an overnight outside the parental home. Alternative care includes:

Informal alternative care

Arrangements made privately whereby a child is looked after by extended family members or others in the community who are known to the child, without any intervention of the authorities.

Formal alternative care

All care provided in a family environment which has been ordered or authorised by a competent authority, as well as all care provided in a residential facility, whether or not it has been ordered or approved by a competent authority.
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