Institutionalisation and deinstitutionalisation of children 2: policy and practice recommendations for global, national, and local actors

Featured Journal Content

The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health
Aug 2020 Volume 4 Number 8 p555-640, e26-e34

Lancet Group Commission
Institutionalisation and deinstitutionalisation of children 2: policy and practice recommendations for global, national, and local actors
Philip S Goldman,, et al
Worldwide, millions of children live in institutions, which runs counter to both the UN-recognised right of children to be raised in a family environment, and the findings of our accompanying systematic review of the physical, neurobiological, psychological, and mental health costs of institutionalisation and the benefits of deinstitutionalisation of child welfare systems. In this part of the Commission, international experts in reforming care for children identified evidence-based policy recommendations to promote family-based alternatives to institutionalisation. Family-based care refers to caregiving by extended family or foster, kafalah (the practice of guardianship of orphaned children in Islam), or adoptive family, preferably in close physical proximity to the biological family to facilitate the continued contact of children with important individuals in their life when this is in their best interest. 14 key recommendations are addressed to multinational agencies, national governments, local authorities, and institutions. These recommendations prioritise the role of families in the lives of children to prevent child separation and to strengthen families, to protect children without parental care by providing high-quality family-based alternatives, and to strengthen systems for the protection and care of separated children. Momentum for a shift from institutional to family-based care is growing internationally—our recommendations provide a template for further action and criteria against which progress can be assessed.

The effects of social deprivation on adolescent development and mental health
Amy Orben, Livia Tomova, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore
Adolescence (the stage between 10 and 24 years) is a period of life characterised by heightened sensitivity to social stimuli and the increased need for peer interaction. The physical distancing measures mandated globally to contain the spread of COVID-19 are radically reducing adolescents’ opportunities to engage in face-to-face social contact outside their household. In this interdisciplinary Viewpoint, we describe literature from a variety of domains that highlight how social deprivation in adolescence might have far-reaching consequences. Human studies have shown the importance of peer acceptance and peer influence in adolescence. Animal research has shown that social deprivation and isolation have unique effects on brain and behaviour in adolescence compared with other stages of life. However, the decrease in adolescent face-to-face contact might be less detrimental due to widespread access to digital forms of social interaction through technologies such as social media. The findings reviewed highlight how physical distancing might have a disproportionate effect on an age group for whom peer interaction is a vital aspect of development.