The harms caused to children placed in residential care institutions (RCI) are well documented, and this awareness is reflected in the shift in international child care policy and programming to regard long-term residential care for children as an option of last resort, and prioritize efforts to deinstitutionalise child welfare.
Despite this, it is estimated that tens of thousands of children in Cambodia are currently living in residential care, with the number of orphanages in the country increasing by 60% between 2005 and 2015. This increase is at odds with a declining poverty rate and falling numbers of genuine orphans over the same decade.
Existing studies commonly identify ‘poverty’ and ‘access to education’ as root causes of family separation and RCI placement in Cambodia but, from a pragmatic policy perspective fail to adequately or empirically structure these problems into politically and operationally plausible and actionable problem definitions and suggested solutions.
The interpretative methods used in this research aim to generate new knowledge that fills this gap and is being conducted in the context of the Cambodian Government’s broader agenda to reduce the placement of children in residential care, and to support family-based care.