1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
In the Nigerian Society, the child is highly cherished, not only by parents but also by the family, the community in general and by the state (Okunola 2001). It is equally the cultural norm that the care and upbringing of the child is shared by all the family and community. However, the family has in the last few decades undergone changes in its formation and structure and consequently in functions to such an extent that the traditional security usually provided by the family is disappearing.
There are children who do not have the benefits of suitable and stable homes either because of incidence of abandonment by mother, death of parents, single parenthood, death or long absence of one of the parents from home due to hospitalization, imprisonment or related factors and lost children especially in the time of disaster or armed conflicts. These children are in vulnerable conditions.
Care for children separated from their parents have been shouldered by the extended family before the creation of formal institutional care facilities. These children now become burden to the family members. Opined by Tagurum et al, 2015, one study ranks Nigeria’s orphans and vulnerable children burden higher than several countries facing war, such as Sudan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, and Syria. One in every 10 households in the country is also estimated to be providing care for an orphan (Marsden and Miller 2011). Many have believed that placing orphans and vulnerable children in care has solved all of their problems but this study proves the contrary.
Orphans and vulnerable children include not only children who are biologically orphans following parental death, but also children considered vulnerable to shocks that jeopardize their health and well-being, such as the chronic illness of a parent, or other household factors. The concept vulnerability with regard to young people imply the ones who are more exposed to risks than their peers. They can be vulnerable in deprivation (food, education, and parental care), exploitation, abuse, neglect, violence, and infection with HIV. The 2013 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) found that the percentage of orphaned children increases rapidly with age, from 4.2 percent among children under age five to 16.1 percent among children age 15-17. Data also indicate that urban children are slightly more likely to be orphaned than rural children (7 and 5 percent respectively).
Psychosocial health includes four important components of well-being; a state of mental, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being.
Institutionalization, a process of developing or transforming rules and procedures that influence a set of human interactions (Hans Keman), though beneficial because it removes orphans from streets and prevents vulnerable children from abusive parents, research has shown that it can never be compared to being raised by caring parents in a caring home. Children who are deprived of the parental care and a secure family environment often become vulnerable to a host of psychological problems and psychiatric disorders (Kaur R, Vinnakota A, Panigrahi S, Manasa R V 2018). An array of research findings has established that institutional care for children regardless of the status of the care facility has far reaching psychosocial and emotional damages on the children (Browne 2009; Dziro and Rufurwokuda 2013). Comparing Nigeria and Zimbabwe, the situation is quite similar because research has shown that children in residential care are more psychologically disturbed compared to those in community home based care unit.
A child’s early experiences determine their future psychological, emotional, social functioning as individuals in their adulthood life. Sabotage of psychosocial wellbeing of children can occur due to painful and bad childhood experiences. Psychosocial wellbeing affects children’s ability, intellectuality, productivity and social functionality. Orphans experience sorrow, anxiety, depression, lack of support and care. The trauma of losing parents can have adverse psychosocial effects on children like feelings of mistrust, inferiority, shame, guilt, insecurity and improper conduct
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development estimates that there are 17.5 million orphans and vulnerable children nationwide. The children face enormous challenges to their health and development and it is estimated that 95 percent of orphans and vulnerable children do not receive any form of medical, emotional, social, material or school-related assistance (National Population Commission, Federal Republic of Nigeria, and ICF International 2013). Institutional care has remained in use even after researchers have found it to be undesirable and the least option for the continuum of care. It is then the second best alternative to children in need of care.