Date of Graduation

Summer 2017


Master of Science in Early Childhood and Family Development


Early Childhood and Family Development

Committee Chair

Joan Test


caregiver-child relationship, caregivers, institutional care of children, orphans, Africa, South Sudan, orphanage, residential care, alternative care, caregiver attitudes, OVC, adolescent wellbeing, OWT

Subject Categories

African Studies | Anthropology | Child Psychology | Community-Based Research | Early Childhood Education | Family, Life Course, and Society | Place and Environment | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Institutional care for children separated from parents is expanding in Africa, but little research exists on caregiving at these institutions. This study explores the caregiver-child relationship in two residential institutions in South Sudan by investigating how caregivers experience their role and how children experience their lives in the institution. Semi- structured interviews assessed 14 caregivers’ backgrounds, parenting experience, attitudes, education, and motivations. The Orphans and Vulnerable Children Wellbeing Tool (OWT) assessed 98 adolescent residents, who also gave feedback about their answers. Caregivers employ parenting styles used by their parents and report treating non-relative children the same as biological children. Children report relatively lower family and social wellbeing as compared with other domains of wellbeing, such as food, shelter, and spirituality. Despite disparities in caregivers’ age, experience, and education between the two institutions, the adolescent groups at both sites report similar mean wellbeing scores, indicating the institutional framework may influence adolescent wellbeing more strongly than particular characteristics of the caregivers at those institutions. Future studies in South Sudan could compare adolescent wellbeing across a spectrum of alternative care settings (relative foster care, non-relative foster care, institutional care) to determine which form of alternative care provides the highest wellbeing for children.


© Jennifer Joy Telfer

Open Access