By doctoral candidates Aakanksha Sinha & Leia Saltzman, and Associate Professor Margaret Lombe
Nearly half the world’s population lives on less than $2.50 per day. This means that approximately 3 billion people, the majority of whom are women and children, cannot afford the resources essential for welfare. Besides the challenges of poverty, these groups also face social barriers, such as stigma and marginalization, which further impedes their quality of life.
The American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare have introduced 12 ‘Grand Challenges for Social Work’ as a means to promote a just society for all humanity. While the focus of its implementation thus far has been primarily based in the U.S; we suggest that these challenges reflect areas of social change globally. The commitments to promote economic equity, social justice, and healthy development for youth parallel the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals that were introduced in December 2015 and ratified by 193 UN member states. This further demonstrates a renewed allegiance to achieving social justice on a global level. As social workers, how can we uniquely contribute towards addressing the grand challenges?
The first step is to unequivocally view the marginalized communities as right holders, who have the fundamental right to basic needs as stipulated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) By utilizing a right based framework we are able to recognize the marginalized as active participants in the formulation of policies and its implementation at the local, national and international levels. As a result the unique needs and strengths of the community can be recognized and appropriately addressed.
Our study “Exploring Factors Associated with Education Outcomes for Orphan and Abandoned Children in India” offers an example to how a right-based framework can contribute towards finding sustainable solutions to the grand challenges, particularly, eradication of economic inequality, achievement of equal opportunity and justice. We utilize the Capability Approach, which is a theoretical framework advanced by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen to explore capability deprivations faced by caregivers of orphan and abandoned children in two states in India. This research is published in the Global Social Welfare Journal.
The issue: As a result of poverty and illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, there is a growing proportion of orphaned and abandoned children (OAC) in the world. India accounts for approximately 25 million of such children. Previous literature indicates that OAC are often victims of emotional, physical, mental and sexual abuse. They are also at risk of poverty, stigma, discrimination, and unequal opportunity. A majority of these children are in kinship care placements, with relatives or community members that are suffering from poverty. As a result of poor social support, implementation of national and state level policies and limited financial resources, the caregivers are ill-equipped to provide quality care to the OAC. Literature from developmental economics suggests that when resources are limited, individuals often place economic value to members of the household. Thus, OAC, in comparison to other members ofthe household are often deprived of quality education, leisure, nutritious food – which impacts their overall development.
The idea: We explore how the type of relationship with the caregivers (biological/non-biological) may impact educational outcomes of OAC in resource-constrained households. We use data from the Positive Outcomes for Orphans study being conducted by Duke University’s Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research.
- A higher percentage of girls were involved in households chores and non-domestic work as compared to boys.
- Caregiver characteristics such as education, health, and marital status were significant predictors of educational outcomes of the children.
- Children that were not biologically related to the caregivers were at greater odds of being involved in work and had poor educational outcomes.
Moving forward: A child’s wellbeing is often determined by the socioeconomic conditions in which they are born, grow and live. Additionally, the capacity of the caregivers to provide quality care is contingent upon various factors such as income, social support and public welfare system. In countries such as India, where there is poor financial support available to kinship care providers, caregivers are often faced with a conflict of moral values and practical needs. As a result, the wellbeing and optimal development of OAC are compromised. In order to successfully tackle deprivations resulting from economic inequality there is a need to locate innovative interventions utilizing community strengths and resources. Additionally, it is necessary to understand the unique needs of the caregivers and the OAC children. This may only be possible when communities and individuals are recognized as right holders and are involved in policy formulation and implementation at the grassroots and national level. Thus, as social work researchers and practitioners we have the unique opportunity, under the framework of the grand challenges introduced by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, to advocate for the rights of the marginalized by working with them, not for them, and in doing so recognizing their expertise and understanding of the barriers they face in equal opportunity and access to basic needs.