A Closer Examination of Family Group Decision Making in
institutional care was seen as a quick alternative to family based care,
and 31 percent of the institutions in operation today began during the
years of the drought and famine.65 Nevertheless, one of the most
detrimental effects of institutional care is the lack of a stable, long-term relationship between a child and a caregiver.66 Moreover, in
Ethiopia, where important cultural languages, practices, and values
are passed through one’s family, removing a child from his or her
community could be even more detrimental. Therefore, there is still a
strong preference for extended family or community-based care in
Ethiopia because it connects children with their cultural traditions
and values, passing them on to future generations.67 Given Ethiopia’s
strong sense of cultural and tribal identity, many Ethiopians view
institutional care only as a last resort.68
During the 1980s, Ethiopia attempted to develop a social
welfare program based on the Western model for disadvantaged
social groups.69 However, due to a lack of resources, debt, and
increased spending associated with the military and natural disasters,
child welfare organizations received limited funds from the
government.70 Consequently, charitable nongovernmental
organizations (“NGOs”) and institutions emerged as alternative
actors in the child welfare sector to supplement the failed role of the
65 IMPROVING CARE OPTIONS FOR CHILDREN IN ETHIOPIA, supra note 6, at 24
(“Many child care institutions were established by both governmental and
nongovernmental organizations in response to the drought.”).
66 Id. at 26. The lack of a stable and responsible caregiver, among other factors, has
been associated with delays in physical, behavioral, cognitive, and socio-emotional
development of children in institutional care. Amanda R. Tarullo & Megan R.
Gunnar, Institutional Rearing and Deficits in Social Relatedness: Possible
Mechanisms and Processes, 9 COGNITION, BRAIN, BEHAV. 329, 330 (2005),
67 Varnis, supra note 12, at 149 (noting the preference for extended family
placements that support traditional identities despite a lack of studies into how such
68 Id. at 147.
69 Abebe & Aase, supra note 4, at 2059.