A Closer Examination of Family Group Decision Making in
communities for the support and care of orphaned children. Part V
concludes by recommending widespread implementation of the
Family Group Decision Making (“FGDM”) model as a more
culturally sensitive and community based practice to empower
families and communities to work together and care for their
II. Overview of Tribal Care to Orphaned Children in Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest percentage of people
living in absolute poverty.11 In such resource-poor environments, the
extended family has traditionally performed the role of caretaker for
children in need.12 This relationship consists of multiple and
reciprocal care giving and care receiving practices, benefitting both
the child and the adult.13 The extended family structure is likewise
important in Ethiopia, a country that accounts for one of the largest
orphan populations in the world.14 Moreover, due to Ethiopia’s
unique socio-political structure and civil society, the extended family
has come to play an even greater role in the care for needy children.15
A. Tribal communities and families in Africa
In understanding the significance of culture and community-based child welfare practices in Ethiopia, it is important to first
examine the general role and importance of family in Africa. The
African family unit has persisted for many years as the central human
social unit, performing the many different forms and functions of a
11 MARK NAPIER, INFORMAL SETTLEMENT INTEGRATION, THE ENVIRONMENT AND
SUSTAINABLE LIVELIHOODS IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA 1, 2 (2000),
http://schant.socialdev.net/data/women%20tenure/napier.PDF (citing UNITED
NATIONS CTR. FOR HUMAN SETTLEMENTS (HABITAT), CITIES IN A GLOBALIZING
WORLD: GLOBAL REPORT ON HUMAN SETTLEMENTS 2001, at 15 (2001)).
12 Abebe & Aase, supra note 4, at 2058; Steven L. Varnis, Promoting Child
Protection Through Community Resources: Care Arrangements for Ethiopian
AIDS Orphans, 8 NORTHEAST AFR. STUD., no. 1, 2001 at 143, 149.
13 Abebe & Aase, supra note 4, at 2058-59.
14 Varnis, supra note 12, at 144.
15 See generally Abebe & Aase, supra note 4, at 2062, 2065, 2067 (discussing the
capacity and sustainability of the extended family in Ethiopia).