The Challenges of Foster Care in Botswana: An Analysis of Failed Government Policy for Orphans during the HIV Epidemic

Bianca Dahl, Brown University

This paper qualitatively analyzes an unsuccessful attempt by the Botswana government to implement a new foster care policy for orphaned children during 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 non-materially-motivated strangers, and aimed to do so by overtly refusing formal foster parents any governmental support or food rations, striving to reconfigure how family and childrearing are perceived during the epidemic. Drawing on anthropological demographic research in the only village that actually placed orphans under the program, the paper explains why the program failed, qualitatively analyzes its effects on children, and offers policy recommendations.

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Presented in Poster Session 6