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An anthropological demographic evaluation of why Botswana’s national formal foster care program for orphans failed

Bianca Dahl, Brown University

This paper qualitatively analyzes the unsuccessful attempt by the Botswana government to implement a new policy for providing care to orphaned children in the midst of the AIDS epidemic. The so-called Formal Foster Care Program (FFCP), launched as a pilot initiative in 2007, differentiated itself from the traditional model of providing for orphans from within extended family networks. Instead, it solicited “responsible” adults to undergo training designed to help them foster orphans who were unrelated to them. The FFCP sought to promote a new model of childcare undertaken by empathic, non-materially-motivated strangers, and aimed to do so by overtly refusing formal foster parents any governmental support or food rations, and striving to reconfigure how family and childrearing are perceived during the AIDS crisis. Drawing on anthropological demographic research in the only village that actually placed orphans under the program, the paper explores why the program failed and offers policy recommendations.

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Presented in Session 111: Child fosterage and adoption