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A Study of Attitudes Towards Residential Care in Cambodia 2011

Created by Sour Piseth December 14, 2012 - Category: Society - Tags: #study 
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Since 2005, Cambodia has seen a 75 per cent increase in the number of residential care facilities, with 269 residential   
care facilities housing 11,945 children in 2010. Government statistics demonstrate that over the past   
five years, 44 per cent of children who were placed in residential care were brought there by their parents or   
extended family, and 61 per cent of children who left residential care were reunited with their parents or extended
family1. This situation is in sharp contrast to government policy, which in its 2006 Policy on Alternative Care
for Children and the 2008 Minimum Standards on Alternative are for Children (herein referred to as the   
Minimum Standards2) notes that family and community-based care are the best option for children, with institutional
care being a last resort and a temporary solution.
Sixty years of global research details the adverse impacts of residential care on the physical and emotional
development of children. This body of research has shown that residential care can result in clinical
personality disorders, growth and speech delays, and an impaired ability to re-enter society later in life.
Residential care has also been shown to place children at risk of physical and sexual abuse. Cambodia   
has a long tradition of caring for vulnerable children within kinship care, and to this day, the majority of Cambodia’s   
orphans live within the extended family. The rapid increase in residential care facilities threatens to erode these
existing systems, and places children at risk.
In response to this situation, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY) and UNICEF   
commissioned this study to understand attitudes and beliefs that are contributing to the increase in   
residential care facilities. A research team was established to conduct the study.
Residential care appears to be the first-stop solution of individual overseas donors who, with the best intentions,   
provide support and funding to children in orphanages, often unaware of community-based care options.
Since almost all residential care centres are funded by individuals from overseas, many centres turn to tourism   
to attract more donors. In the worst cases this becomes the basis for an “orphanage tourism” business, in which
children are routinely asked to perform for, or befriend donors, and in some cases to actively solicit the funds   
to guarantee the residential centres’ survival. Residential centres have also turned to international volunteers in the   
hopes of raising money. As a result, short-term volunteers, who have not undergone background checks, are   
frequently given access to children, which poses a child protection risk.
A high turnover of caregivers has also been  shown to negatively impact children in care, who must repeatedly
try to form emotional connections with different adults. Many volunteers see it as their role to provide love, thus
building strong emotional bonds with the children. However, when volunteers leave, these bonds are broken and
the children are once again left alone.
The Government of Cambodia supports family- and community-based care, and views residential care as a last   
resort. MoSVY has taken a strong stance in the Policy on Alternative Care for Children and the Minimum Standards,   
enacting policies and frameworks that favour family- and community-based care over residential care, but these   
have not been adequately enforced. MoSVY continues to register a high number of residential care centres every  

This document has been released into the public domain.