Failed Fosterage: Concepts of Family and Caregiving in Botswana’s Unsuccessful Formal Foster Care Program for Orphans

Bianca Dahl, Brown University

This paper analyzes the ultimately unsuccessful attempt by the Botswana government to implement a new policy for providing care to orphaned children. The Formal Foster Care Program (FFCP), launched as a pilot in 2007, differentiated itself from the traditional, ubiquitous model of providing for orphans from within extended family networks. Instead, it solicited responsible adults to undergo training to foster orphans were unrelated to them. The paper describes how the FFCP sought to promote a new model of family based on what it described as nonmaterialistic, “Good Samaritan” bonds of “love” – by refusing formal foster parents any governmental support or rations, and striving to reconfigure how family and childrearing are perceived during the AIDS crisis. Drawing on qualitative research with orphans, their families, social workers, policy-makers, and formal foster parents, the paper explores the outcome of this initiative for the orphans themselves, and suggests avenues for successful policy intervention.

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Presented in Poster Session 7