Infants and Young Children in Alternative Care

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This chapter is concerned with the provisions of alternative care globally for infants and young children (birth to eight years old). The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), 1989), has clear guidance that children’s needs are best met in their family, and the State should provide services to support this. In case where this is not possible alternative care should be available, preferably for a short period of time.
Alternative care is divided into two categories, family-based care and institutional care. Wherever possible children under three should never be cared for in an institution. There are huge variations about what is known about alternative care in difference countries. While it is estimated that there are at least 2.7 million children in institutions (Petrowski et al., 2017) this figure does not include the children in family-based care or those where informal arrangements have been made. Overall, this area of the child protection system is data-poor, under-researched and documented.
In order to understand the complexities of alternative care, there is a focus on the bioecological theory of human development (Bronfenbrenner, 2005), attachment and resilience theory. These theoretical frameworks provide insights into the issues that affect children in need of alternative care. Protection issues and the policy and legislation that addresses this area are explored, as well as the challenges of alternative care. Implications for practice are considered, as well as the urgent need for action to make visible the needs and experiences of the most vulnerable group of children in the world.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Sage Handbook of Early Childhood
EditorsNicola J Yelland, Lacey Peters, Nikki Fairchild, Marek Tesar, Michelle S. Pérez
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Print)9781529717815
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • Alternative care
  • Residentail Care
  • Early childhood
  • Early Years
  • Young Children's Rights
  • child protection


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