Life chances of children and young people in institutional care in Sri Lanka: A critical review of policy and governance with reference to case studies
Keywords:Life chances, institutional care, policy environments, governance practices, quality of life
One in every two hundred children undergo alternative care in a children’s home in Sri Lanka, denied of basic human rights by being deprived of parental care and by being labelled orphaned, abandoned or destitute. These figures are problematic in a multi-religious and diversely cultured state where moral rhetoric abounds, but concerns need to be translated into practice. The need for institutional children’s care must be investigated, as does the ability of these organizations to provide a quality upbringing and life preparation for children. In this paper I address these contemporary issues through a critical review of the policy environment and the governance practices of these institutions with reference to specific case studies.
My field study was carried out across all nine provinces in Sri Lanka, involving policy makers and service providers of institutionalized children. All nine commissioners of the provincial departments of probation and child care services were interviewed to collect information on policy implications and their role in the policy making process. All 298 probation officers, 287 child rights promotion officers, and matrons and wardens of all 416 children’s homes were included in a questionnaire census approach. Of these, approximately half responded. Thirty managers from different children’s homes were interviewed to ascertain information with regards to their service provision.My critical systemic approach in the field has identified many issues of policy implication and service provision across institutions charged with care of children and young people. This paper presents the initial findings regarding the quality of life and the enhancement of life chances of children in alternative care in Sri Lanka. Further, it will also give direction to policy makers and service providers on the provision of high quality child support. This takes into account their natural birth environments, their institutionalization period and subsequent reintegration. These guidelines can maximize the potential of these institutionalized children and is well suited to this year’s conference theme, “Curating the conditions for a thrivable planet” as the well-being of children and the planet are inextricably linked. A critical approach to maximizing the potential of institutionalized children will, in turn, enable them to positively contribute to the emerging “global eco-civilization”.