SOS Norway launches report on the situation of children without parental care or at risk of losing it
In 2015, 220 million children – every 10th child – lived without parental care or were at risk of losing it. Nevertheless, these children are often not recognised in international development policies. In a new report, SOS Children’s Villages Norway puts the spotlight on children who cannot be raised by their parents or are at risk of losing parental care.
Children’s rights and well-being are widely recognised as key contributors to sustainable development. Children are at the centre of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which will guide international policy in the next 15 years. Almost all countries have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Nonetheless, children without or at risk of losing parental care largely remain invisible and often lack adequate support and protection.
The report “In the Blind Spot”, compiled for SOS Children’s Villages Norway by consultant Pia Lang-Holmen, analyses international strategies and documentation focused on this specific group of children. It also examines the situation in 12 countries that the Norwegian government will focus its attention on in the future.
Lang-Holmen analyses that children without parental care, or at risk of losing it, are not known or recognised as a target group in development policy. While international cooperation aims to help “vulnerable children”, there is not one single and globally accepted definition of who belongs to this group.
Furthermore, documentation of the causes and consequences of losing parental care is scarce. Given this lack of data and understanding of this child population, the report raises the question to what extent development aid actually reaches those who need it the most.
Against widespread belief, most children without parental care are not orphans. Among those who cannot be raised by their parents are child labourers, children in street situations, those living in households headed by other children or in institutions, and victims of trafficking.
Children who are at risk of losing parental care often suffer multiple rights violations. These include poverty, the death of parents, or poor health; socio-cultural factors such as migration, family breakdown, or discrimination; psychosocial factors such as violence and abuse or exploitation; and political and economic factors, including war, natural disasters, or inadequate government structures and services. These factors can have detrimental effects on children’s physical, cognitive, emotional and psychological development and well-being.
Many of these causes could be eliminated if children and families received adequate support and protection. Lang-Holmen underscores that investment in early childhood development is highly valuable for each child and for societies as a whole. For every dollar invested in a vulnerable child, the return for society amounts to US$ 4-10.
The right to a nurturing upbringing
To ensure that children’s right to grow up in a nurturing environment, Lang-Holmen addresses stakeholders and offers recommendations. She encourages measures to fill the gaps in knowledge and data on children who cannot be raised by their parents or might lose parental care. She also calls for coordinated efforts and knowledge-based policies, a focus on children in ”good governance”, and further research on children without parental care or at risk of losing it.