Institutionalized Child Care in Urban South Africa
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In the developing world, child care institutions often involve more complexity than is typically reflected by the word “orphanage.” In many instances, children do not fit the widespread definition of an orphan as one with with deceased parents. Oftentimes, institutions play a partial role in a child’s development by contributing towards childcare in collaboration with a relative, an ill parent, or nearby kin. In South Africa, the need and complexity surrounding the role of child care institutions is further amplified by the region’s longstanding HIV/AIDS epidemic. Through a primarily ethnographic study, I sought to understand and relay the nuances of a child care center in Hillbrow, an urban neighborhood in central Johannesburg known for its crime and gang proliferation. Through the developmental stages of intake and early childhood, middle childhood, and late adolesence and outward transition, I explored how children overcome traumatic pasts with the help of the center, how the center struggles with the material burdens of providing to children with a wide array of needs, and how the process of transitioning into adulthood is handled by the children and their caretakers. In conclusion, I explore the non-negotiable elements of the center’s approach to child care and make further recommendations for other institutions in a similar context as well as future academic research.