Just Released: Drumming Together for Change

New report calls for concerted action to improve care standards for children in Africa

A newly published research report highlights how eight African countries have failed to implement UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children; lack of leadership, resources and information cited.


18 June 2014 - LILONGWE, MALAWI – Five years after the UN adopted the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children, key aspects of the global standards have yet to be implemented, according to a report authored by policy experts and released today.

The report, Drumming Together For Change, was produced through a partnership between the University of Malawi and the University of Strathclyde (UK), with the assistance of SOS Children´s Villages and its global Care for ME! campaign. The report's conclusions are based on evidence gathered through national assessments of eight Sub-Saharan Africa countries. It highlights “serious inadequacies in the services aimed at preventing the separation of children from their families, providing appropriate alternative care, and protecting children from harm.”

According to the report’s analysis, at the root of the problems lie a lack of leadership, resources, and information required to tackle the problems.
“These children are some of the most vulnerable in society and are made more vulnerable when the systems designed to care for them fail to work in their interests,” the report said. “This is the fifth anniversary of the Guidelines and it is important that we begin examining the ways in which they are successfully implemented and understanding the reasons why they are not…. This report is clear: change will demand action from us all.”
The report sounds a call for change: “We will be drumming with different rhythms but together these rhythms, in all their syncopation, must be heard and felt as a collective call for positive, real change in the lives of the most vulnerable members of our societies.”

Key findings:

  • There is a lack of formal child care provision and an increasing burden placed on informal care arrangements.
  • Of the formal care provided, most was in residential care – often by unlicensed providers – that fails to meet individual child needs.
  • The inconsistent quality and lack of government monitoring reveal high levels of risk around child protection.
  • There is a lack of support to help families care for children, before any need for alternative care may arise. Many children currently in alternative care could be living with their parents, but prevention services are not supported by governments, are poorly coordinated, and reach only a small proportion of the population in need.

Despite the findings, the report's authors see significant opportunities for change and provide detailed roadmaps of the first steps governments need to take.
The policy framework proposed in the report calls for:
  • Active engagement with local communities, families and children. As the beneficiaries of alternative care, they should be given both a voice and a stake in the services that are designed for them and the decisions that are made in their interests.
  • Governments to take a more active leadership role. This means coordinating alternative care provision and developing partnerships with other stakeholders.
  • Involvement of cooperative, accountable non-state organisations. This includes international donors, private sector, and NGOs, which can cooperate with and empower governments with resources and knowledge.

The eight countries covered by this report are: Benin, Gambia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Togo, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The individual country assessments are available at: www.care-for-me.org

Full Report download


Executive Summary download


Editor’s Notes:

  • The official release of the report Drumming Together for Change coincides with the national launch in Malawi of the Care for ME! campaign by SOS Children’s Villages Malawi on Wednesday 18 June 2014.
  • Interviews with book authors can be arranged on request. Short biographies are available.

UN Guidelines for Alternative Care of Children

These Guidelines set the standards for caring for children outside their biological families, providing practical guidance on the application of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, originally adopted in 1989. For more information on the Guidelines, see:

About SOS Children's Villages

SOS Children's Villages is the largest non-governmental organisation focused on children without parental care and families at risk. The organisation was founded in 1949 and today is present in 133 countries and territories, running more than 2,300 programmes reaching more than a million children and adults. SOS Children's Villages adheres to the principle that every child grows best in a family environment, with loving parents or caregivers, living together with their siblings, in a place they can call home. SOS Children's Villages works with communities, local partners and authorities to support disadvantaged families, thus preventing family breakdown. When necessary and when it is deemed to be in the child's best interests, there is the option for children to grow up in a foster family or in an SOS Children's Villages family. SOS Children's Villages also aims to influence decision-makers to make changes in policies and practices in order to promote the well-being of children, especially of those without parental care. More information on SOS Children's Villages can be found at www.sos-childrensvillages.org.


Mr Joel Feyerherm
Messaging Team Leader
SOS Children’s Villages International
+44 7912 070368