A Review of the Literature on Deinstitutionalisation and Child Protection Reform in South Asia

 -From Institutionalised Children Explorations and Beyond

Vulnerable and marginalised children often need the care and protection of their country governments. For the majority of children living in the global south, this is predominantly done through institutionalisation. However, institutional care is not an organic way the societies care for children (Ott et al., 2020), but kinship and community-based care are.

As the global understanding of the optimal factors for child development increased in the past 50 years, the use of institutionalisation as a first resort solution for protecting vulnerable children has been challenged. Over time, statistically sound evidence showed that institutionalisation harms children.

A landmark acknowledgement came with the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), in 1989, that asserts children belong in families and institutionalisation must be the last option to be considered. As the world began to deinstitutionalise, successes and challenges were documented.

Research on deinstitutionalisation reveals country-specific experiences from Bulgaria, Estonia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Azerbaijan and other countries. The information, however, on South Asian countries is scarce. This article explores the legislative frameworks and the evidence on deinstitutionalisation practices in South Asia, with the goal of documenting the progress made by its countries and consolidating the knowledge and lessons learnt about deinstitutionalisation in South Asia.

This study will provide legislators, researchers and practitioners interested in child protection system reform an overview of how South Asia compares to other parts of the world, the challenges faced by the region in implementing child protection system reform and three strategies proposed for overcoming those challenges.

In this study, deinstitutionalisation does not imply the closing of all child-care institutions (also referred to as orphanages, boarding schools or children’s homes) immediately. Rather, it means transitioning from a child protection system in which most vulnerable children are sent to orphanages to a system where most children remain with their families, with the support of the community.

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