n Commonwealth Youth and Development - I am a hero - orphans in child-headed households and resilience




A distressing consequence of the HIV / Aids pandemic and of the increasing numbers of orphans and decreasing numbers of caregivers is the emergence in ever larger numbers of child-headed households (CHHs). The complexity of issues affecting CHHs and the lack of research on this subject means that CHHs are not well understood. This sometimes prompts support agencies to provide emotionally driven recommendations suggesting that it is better for a child to be in an orphanage than to live in a CHH. This article, which is drawn from findings of an exploratory study (Germann 2005) involving heads of 105 CHHs over a 12-month period and 142 participants in various focus group discussions (FGD) and interviews, suggests the need for a change in perspective. It addresses the question of quality of life of CHH and coping strategies and household functioning and attempts to bring this into a productive dialogue with community child care activities, NGO and statutory support, and child care and protection policies.


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