Sharing their narratives
This project explores the lived experiences of the children and parents who are at the centre of alternative care provision in Thailand.
There is a growing consensus in the child welfare literature highlighting the detrimental effect that institutional care provision has on a child's emotional, behavioural and social development. United Nations (UN) guidelines for the provision of alternative care highlight that, wherever possible, states should avoid the use of institutional care and instead prioritise family and community-based approaches. Existing research shows that this is particularly important for the developmental needs of children under the age of three. However, in many places around the globe, these UN guidelines have not been implemented fully, and a gap exists, between the extensive research evidence and the practice and policy reality where institutions remain the predominant placement choice for children.
Thailand is an important country in which to study child welfare. It was the first in the region to sign up to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and in recent years, there have been many improvements in children's day-to-day lives. For example, there has been a significant reduction in the infant mortality rate, and improvements in educational outcomes. The Thai government have also attempted to shift from the use of institutional care settings and they have introduced some foster care programmes. However, challenges remain and in a context of limited resources and considerable demand; the use of institutional care is prioritised as a way to meet children's needs. Accordingly, for the estimated fifty-five thousand children in Thailand who are unable to live with their parents, the likelihood remains that they will live in a large-scale, often unregulated, institution.
The overall aims of this project are to systematically review the existing research on alternative care in low to middle income countries, then explore the experiences of the children and families involved in alternative care in Thailand. Subsequently, through an action-oriented project and a plan of public engagement, the narratives will be shared widely to influence perceptions of the public, practitioners and policy actors.
This project will gain understandings of children and families experiences of alternative care in low to middle-income countries, which are currently missing in the literature. It is important to address this limitation as understanding and sharing the narratives of the people at the centre of this practice, has the potential to affect public perceptions and also shape practice and policy.
The project consists of three work-packages that are planned over twenty four months. During an initial development phase a literature review will be completed to contextualise the project. This will include an analysis of the current evidence on alternative care across low to middle income countries.
The initial fieldwork phase, work-package 1 (WP1) will follow the initial development phase and it will employ creative methods to gain in-depth understandings of the lived experiences of children currently growing up in alternative care in Thailand.
We will collect the experiences of the parents who make the decision to relinquish their children in work-package 2 (WP2). These narratives are currently missing in the literature and by understanding the parents’ decision there is potential to better inform practice and policy responses that aim to strengthen families and reduce numbers entering alternative care.
A secondary fieldwork phase, work-package 3 (WP3), will be action-oriented. Focus groups will explore public perceptions of various care settings, the findings from the first two work-packages will then be shared, and participant's views will be re-examined.
The project will attempt to disseminate the findings widely across academic outputs (journals) and non-academic outputs (media engagement, project website, films and illustrated essays).
Public lecture and exhibition
The project will culminate with a public lecture and art exhibition at Thammasat in Bangkok bringing together practitioners, policy actors and academics with an interest in child welfare. This final event will aim to promote the voices of the research participants and to share their narratives.