The Life Chances of Young People in Voluntary Children’s Homes in Sri Lanka: A critical review of policy and governance with references to case studies

Author: Nevika Eshantha Ariyadasa Loku Badaturuge

Loku Badaturuge, Nevika Eshantha Ariyadasa, 2016 The Life Chances of Young People in Voluntary Children’s Homes in Sri Lanka: A critical review of policy and governance with references to case studies, Flinders University, School of Social and Policy Studies

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This study makes a contribution in terms of public policy and administration by addressing the rights of children deprived of parental care or who are at risk in Sri Lanka. The thesis focuses on the governance of children’s homes and aims to enhance the life chances of institutionalized children in these homes. The complex needs of children in many homes in Sri Lanka have not been properly addressed and a major gap exists between policy and practice. This study serves the urgent need to provide strategies to eliminate these shortcomings. It evaluates the care in terms of the UN policy guidelines to identify the extent to which the Sri Lankan government has addressed service delivery in terms of the UN Child Rights Convention.

Many countries put great faith in family based strategies such as foster care. The UN Guidelines emphasise that “where institutional care facilities remain, alternatives should be developed in the context of an overall de-institutionalisation strategy” (United Nations 2010). Despite being a signatory to this convention, the situation in Sri Lanka is that institutional care is almost the sole solution (Roccella 2007).

This thesis discusses a range of interview narratives and questionnaire responses from those involved in the system, suggesting strategies to prevent childhood institutionalisation, to protect their human rights and to promote their reintegration possibilities. These discussions help the Sri Lankan government when making policies for institutions and when guiding them towards good governance practices in order to cater for children’s needs and to protect their rights.

The major challenge of this study has been to resolve the paradox of the need for institutional care and the deinstitutionalization of children. The thesis develops an argument that children’s voice’s should be included in social policy decisions before they enter care, during institutionalization and in order to ensure that decisions are matched to their concerns when they are reintegrated into the community. Building their capacities should be a priority at all governance levels, namely, when taking decisions for them to step into, or out from, care settings with high walls and locked gates. The research emphasises the need to prevent children’s institutionalization in the first place. It discusses strategies to protect the human rights of these children whilst they are in institutional care. Finally it stresses that institutionalised children’s rights should be promoted by means of reintegration into the community and maintaining connections with family wherever possible and appropriate.

This research discusses a user-centric policy design and governance practice to prevent childhood institutionalization and promote reintegration by looking at the social, economic and environmental factors that lead prolonged institutionalization. However, the thesis does identify the inevitable need for care institutions to temporarily accommodate children in case of an emergency. It suggests a theory informed practical framework based on good governance practices to address the human rights issues that children encounter in care institutions. This study has also introduced a reintegration evaluation system and a model to contribute to effective and efficient reintegration of institutionalised children. It makes the case for promoting the resilience of families so that children can remain or return to families where appropriate - through providing pathways and opportunities to address their vulnerabilities.

Keywords: Life chances, voluntary children’s homes, orphanages, policy and practice, governance of children's homes, praxis, reintegration, children's rights, alternative care, institutional care, de-institutionalization, capabilities, capacity building, user centric policy design.

Subject: Policy and Administration thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2016
School: School of Social and Policy Studies
Supervisor: Associate Professor Janet McIntyre-Mills