What is Alternative Care for Children?
Alternative care is any arrangement, formal or informal, temporary or permanent, where a child is living away from his or her parents and the parents are not actively involved in their lives.
Why is proper Alternative Care important in Thailand right now?
Alternative Care is important in Thailand because research has shown that Thailand has a large number of children living in Alternative Care situations and that in many instances the quality of that care is falling below international standards.
Families are the basic building blocks of our society. Our love for each other, our children and our parents is the foundation on which a strong and caring community is built. If we believe this is true, then we must commit to supporting families through rough times and to addressing the poverty that separates so many children from their parents around the world.
We believe that Thailand has the capacity to be a regional leader and role model for Alternative Care reform. Alternative Care Thailand is for anyone who wants to know more about Alternative Care, especially in Thailand. Together we can keep more families together and find loving families for children whose biological parents have died or are truly unable to care for them.
Alternative Care Options in Thailand
Kinship care is the raising of children by extended family members, and adults with whom they have a close family-like relationship. Kinship care can be formal (registered) or informal. Formal kinship care in Thailand can be supported with small monthly payments from the government.
The extent of informal kinship care is not fully known, but is believed to be very significant as seen in the surveys conducted by the National Statistical Office which found that almost 24 per cent of children under 18 years of age do not live with their biological parents, mostly due to internal migration.
We define foster care as the formal placement of children with parents with whom they had no prior relationship. Foster care can be short term or long term.
There is often a lot of confusion about foster care, especially when translated into Thai language. Some children’s homes are even referred to as foster homes.
Although a small number of NGO’s have been supporting foster care placements in Thailand for several decades there is not yet a national framework or system for foster care provision. With support from Care for Children, the Department of Children and Youth is now developing foster care protocols for children living in government run children’s homes in Thailand and have committed to increasing the numbers of children they place in family based care.
Development of national standards for foster care is under way, with the goal of making foster care a viable family based care option for children who would otherwise enter children’s homes in Thailand.
Once a child is formally adopted and has legal guardians, they are no longer considered to be in Alternative Care. However their journey to being adopted will almost certainly have involved a period of time in Alternative Care.
Thailand has five official adoption centers and adoption can be both national and international.
More information about adoption in Thailand can be found here:
Thailand Government Childrens Homes
These homes are under the Department of Children and Youth. There are 30 government children’s homes in Thailand. Most are large with over 100 children. Some are only for boys or girls and some are for both.
All of Thailand’s government children’s homes are also registered as foundations allowing them to raise funds privately, giving them a degree of autonomy.
The management style of the homes varies, for example on their websites some of the homes encourage volunteers with no mention of background checks whereas others are much more careful and set clear expectations and rules about volunteering.
Registered Private Childrens Homes
The Thailand Child Protection Act 2003 requires anyone providing a home to more than 6 children (who are not their own children) to register with the provincial social services as a children’s home.
In 2015 The Department of Children and Youth (DCY) reported 137 registered private children’s homes to UNICEF for their report “Review of Alternative Care in Thailand”.
After obtaining additional information, the DCY is currently communicating with all provincial social service departments to update this number, which is likely to be significantly higher.
Unregistered Private Childrens Homes
These are children’s homes run by private individuals who have chosen not to register with the government. Some are registered as NGO’s in Thailand. However this does not meet the requirements of the Thailand Child Protection Act 2003 which says that they must register as a children’s home if they have more than 6 children. The law states that failure to do so should result in a fine or imprisonment.
Research by One Sky Foundation documented 240 unregistered private children’s homes through online searching and cross checking with DCY’s list of registered homes. This research only found homes that have an online presence and attempted to match them to the Department of Children and Youth database. One Sky Foundation estimates the total number of unregistered children’s homes to be more than 600.
The 2003 Child Protection Act catagorises different types of children home depending on their specific aims. The full act is available below in both English and Thai.
Government Boarding Schools
Thailand is a very large country and many children live away from home in order to go to school, especially high school.
In government run boarding schools parents remain the legal guardians of their children and should be involved in all significant decisions concerning their children. For this reason we don’t consider these children to be living in Alternative Care.
Private Boarding Schools
A more grey area is that of privately run boarding schools. In the border areas of Thailand in particular many of these institutions feel like children’s homes with children often saying they haven’t been home or seen their parents for many years.
Cooperation between the Department for Children and Youth and the Ministry of Education is needed to register and regulate these private boarding houses and to identify those who are really children’s homes in disguise.