All children should live in a supportive, protective and caring environments that help them develop to their full potential. When a child's parents are unable, even with support, to provide adequate care for their child, the state is responsible for ensuring that the child is placed in appropriate alternative care. Put simply, alternative care refers to the care arrangements that have to be made when children’s parents can’t care for them. These are children for whom parental care is not an option because parents are either unwilling or unable to care for them, including being deceased. There are two main types of alternative care: family-based care and residential care.
- Family-based care includes care by extended family members (kinship care) or formal foster care (usually care by a non-relative and arranged by the Department of Social Welfare).
- Residential care is care provided in any non-family based group setting including orphanages, children’s homes, children’s villages and shelters.
- Adoption is also a type of alternative care as it provides permanent alternative care solution for a child who cannot be with his/ her biological parents.
- Formal foster care, where care is provided by a government approved foster parent, usually not a relative of the child, is also an option but not often used.
- Family-based care is the preferred alternative care option for children because it helps ensure that children grow up in a stable, safe and caring family. Residential care can be considered as a last resort, but only as a temporary solution if no immediate kinship or foster care placement is found, while a longer-term family-based alternative or permanent care solution including reunification with parents or adoption is sought.