Is institutional care ever in a child’s best interest?

Judit Németh-Almasi's picture
14 Jan 2015 -- Judit Németh-Almasi

This is a difficult question because in general it is always better for a child to be in a family situation, where they can be given individual attention and have the opportunity to make meaningful relationships with significant adults.However, there are some situations where institutional care might be a better option for a child.

It can be damaging to a child if the placement breakdowns (resulting in rejection and more unsettlement) so where a child has very difficult behaviour and is unlikely to be able to kept safe in alternative care such as foster care it may be less damaging to be able to provide continuous care in an institution rather than have the child move multiple times.Similarly for some children who are used to a lot of autonomy, such as those living on the streets, or for older children who already strongly identify with their own family, they may not cope / want a new family.

Rather than having one kind of care option, the optimum solution is to have a range of possibilities – from family based / foster care through to institutional care – and then to decide what is in the best interests for that particular child.Even when institutional care is considered to be in a child’s best interests this should still be provided in small units where children can get individual attention, rather than in large anonymous institutions.

Babies and young children, even if they are to be adopted, should always be placed in alternative, family based care.

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