UNICEF Sudan Alternative Family Care

Focus 2: Placement of children aged 0-3 years in family-based settings

Research from 2003 indicated that 110 newborn babies on average were being abandoned in Khartoum every month. This was driven by the social stigma attached to children born to unmarried parents. It was recognised that current institutional care arrangements were not in the best interests of the child and that the potential for developing forms of alternative family-based care existed.

Against this background UNICEF set out with Government and NGO partners, to examine the potential for an alternative to institutional care. In addition to stabilising conditions in institutional care, key aims of the programme included the design of acceptable alternative family care arrangements, and changes in attitudes, procedures and laws relating to the abandonment of young children.

In doing so the programme is a good example of overcoming obstacles to developing family-based care through its success in engaging with Islamic leaders and gaining their support through issuing a fatwa which contributed to a change in social perceptions of abandoned children.

The programme has run since 2003, initially funded by UNICEF and NGO partners but now primarily by the State Ministry of Social Affairs. Initial results have been positive in terms of the de-institutionalisation of vulnerable children with a total of 500 emergency family placements and 2,000 permanent family placements made between 2003 and 2007.

The programme has also helped to shape policy affecting vulnerable mothers and children. The Child Act 2010 places an emphasis on the primary source of care for abandoned children to be within a family unit and also guarantees access to education and health care for abandoned children.

For more information see ‘UNICEF Sudan Technical Briefing Paper 1': Alternative Family Care 

International Social Service, Oak Foundation, SOS Children's Villages International, unicef, ATD Fourth World, Better Care Network, Family for every child, ngo group for the crc, PEPFAR, RELAF, Save the Children, USAID