Institutional childcare services in Harare, Zimbabwe: exploring experiences of managers, caregivers and children

Chinyenze, Patience
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Institutional care is one of the strategies used to provide quality care to vulnerable children. Services in institutional care are designed to provide children with a family environment, psychosocial services, and services that prepare children to adjust to the society and be responsible citizens after being discharged. Noteworthy is the fact that many scholars argue that institutional care is not good for children because of its detrimental effects on child development. In spite of this strong and negative argument, institutional care is still being recognized as an option for vulnerable children and is therefore still prevalent in many countries including Zimbabwe. This study was carried out to explore the experiences of managers, caregivers and children in childcare institutions in Harare, Zimbabwe. The study was aimed at exploring and analysing the views of management, caregivers and children about psychosocial centred childcare services in institutions in Harare, Zimbabwe; and adopted three theories namely Psychosocial Theory by Erik Erikson, Attachment Theory by John Bowlby and Ecological Theory by Urie Bronfennbrenner. A qualitative approach that was descriptive and exploratory in nature and a multiple case study design was used. Participants included one director from the Department of Social Services, informants, twenty-four caregivers and twenty-four children, all from four institutions in Harare. Individual interviews were conducted with a Director five key childcare from the Department of Social Services and Directors of four childcare Institutions to explore their views on the nature of childcare services at the different institutions. In addition, a group of six caregivers per childcare institution participated in focus group discussions held to explore their experiences in terms of services being provided in the institutions in Harare, Zimbabwe. Furthermore, individual interviews were held with six children per childcare institution to capture their voices on the childcare services that they were receiving in institutions. The findings from the study revealed that although institutional care is regarded as the last resort in Zimbabwe, more and more children are being placed in institutional care. Findings also revealed that some of the services provided in institutional care are appropriate and pro- child development. In this regard, as a result of provision of these services, children in institutional care were accessing their basic needs like shelter, food and education and were assured of a home and family. In addition, institutions were providing psychosocial services to help children to deal with past and present issues and also to prepare for future life. The study gathered that, all these services were provided to create an environment conducive for child development and to equip children with skills critical in adulthood, adjust to the society and be responsible citizens after discharge from a childcare institution. On the other hand, participants highlighted that there were several impediments to institutional care service delivery in Zimbabwe. These include, inadequate support from Probation Officers, minimal financial support from the government, children’s lack of identity documents, limited efforts on discharge plans and course of action for children over 18 years of age, absence of an administrative body to run caregivers’ affairs, non-inclusion of people at grassroots level in policy formulation and implementation. Participants highlighted that the aforementioned factors negatively affect the quality of services provided in institutional care. In light of the above, Zimbabwe has institutional childcare services that are appropriate, but there are drawbacks that need serious attention. The study therefore recommended that there was need to address the drawbacks in order minimise detrimental effects on the quality of psychosocial-centred childcare services available in childcare institutions. In addition, the study also proposed formulation of a psychosocial support framework for use in childcare institutions.
A thesis submitted to the Department of Social Work School of Human and Community Development Faculty of Humanities University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg In fulfillment of the requirements of the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Social Work) November 2017
Chinyenze, Patience (2017) Institutional child care services in Harare, Zimbabwe:exploring experiences of managers, caregivers and children, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, <>