Ghana is located in Western Africa and borders Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, and Togo. This country occupies a total area of 238,533 square kilometers1 and has a population of 23,887,812.2 Children fourteen years of age or younger account for 37.2% of the population.3 Poverty has declined significantly over the last two decades,4 but 28.5 % of the population is still below the poverty line.5 People living with HIV/AIDS number 260,000; the rate of prevalence of HIV/AIDS among adults is 1.9%.6 HIV/AIDS and poverty are two major challenges to the well-being of Ghana’s children.
According to a 2006 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), 7.7% of Ghana’s children, aged seventeen or younger, were one-parent or double orphans.7 According to a 2007 estimate, the number of one-parent and double orphans, aged seventeen or younger, from all causes was 1,100,000.8 AIDS-related deaths accounted for 160,000 one-parent and double orphans.9
Responses to the orphan crisis have included informal foster arrangements with extended family members and institutional care. Informal foster arrangements with extended family members are common for orphans and non-orphans,10 and, because poverty has led to many cases of child abandonment, institutional care has been utilized as a means of caring for both orphans and non-orphans. One of the challenges associated with the institutional care system, according to Ghana’s Department of Social Welfare, is “the large number of non-orphans who are simply needy children being kept in children’s homes permanently, with little or no prospects for adoption or re-integration.”11 Additionally, a 2003 survey of 2,314 street children revealed that three-quarters of them had both parents still living, which implicates poverty as the cause of their homelessness.12
Approximately 4,500 children are cared for in 110 private homes, and 440 children are cared for in 5 homes managed or subsidized by the government of Ghana.13 Formal foster care is another option, but, for example, in 2004 there were only thirteen foster care orders made.14 In 2006, the Department of Social Welfare handled 197 relative adoption cases and 58 non-relative adoption cases.15 Finally, intercountry adoption offers another means for providing care for the orphans of Ghana. A study of 23 receiving states revealed that between the years 2003 and 2009, approximately 412 Ghanaian children were adopted by citizens of other countries.16
Ghana has implemented the Care Reform Initiative to help better address the needs of orphans and vulnerable children. The four main components of that initiative are prevention, which emphasizes support for families and avoidance of the need for outside care for the children; reintegration with extended family, which looks to kinship care when children are separated from their parents; fostering, which promotes foster care when kinship care is not available; and adoption, which provides a permanent home for children who have no prospects of being reunited with their families.17 The goal of the Care Reform Initiative is “the establishment of a more consistent and stable approach to caring for vulnerable children in Ghana so that each child will be assured of a permanent home in a supportive and loving family.”18
1 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). (2010). Ghana. In The world factbook. Retrieved October 25, 2010, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/gh.html.
2 CIA, 2010. July 2010 estimate.
3 CIA, 2010. 2010 estimate.
4 “Overall poverty has declined from 52% in 1992 to 28% in 2006, and Ghana is on course to exceed the 2015 Millennium Development Goals of halving her poverty.” (Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare. (2010, June). Ghana: National plan of action for orphans and vulnerable children. Retrieved from http://www.crin.org/docs/GHANA%20OVC%20NPA.pdf. p. 9.)
5 CIA, 2010. 2007 estimate.
6 CIA, 2010. 2007 estimates.
7 MICS. (2006). Ghana: Monitoring the situation of children, women and men. Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey. Retrieved from http://www.childinfo.org/files/MICS3_Ghana_FinalReport_2006_Eng.pdf. p. iv. Projections made in 2004 suggested that 10% of all children in Ghana would be orphans by 2010. (UNAIDS, UNICEF, and USAID. (2004, July). Children on the brink 2004: A joint report of new orphan estimates and a framework of action. Washington, DC: USAID. Retrieved from http://www.unicef.org/publications/files/cob_layout6-013.pdf. p. 30.)
8 UNICEF. (n.d.). Statistics. At a glance: Ghana. Retrieved October 28, 2010, from http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/ghana_statistics.html.
9 UNICEF, n.d.
10 See Jones, N., Ahadzie, W., & Doh, D. (2009, July). Social protection and children: Opportunities in Ghana. Retrieved from http://www.unicef.org/wcaro/wcaro_3798_unicef_odi_Social_Portection_Ghana-full-report.pdf.
p. 38. For example, statistics from the 2006 MICS showed that 11.2% of children with both parents living were not living with their parents (Jones et al., 2009, p. 38).
11Orphans and Vulnerable Children Care Reform Initiative, Ghana. (n.d.a). Challenges and solutions. Retrieved October 28, 2010, from http://www.ovcghana.org/challenges_solutions.html.
12 Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare, 2010, p. 17.
13 Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare, 2010, p. 16.
14 Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare, 2010, p. 17.
15 Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare, 2010, p. 17.
16 Selman, P. (2010, December). African states of origin, 2003-2009: Number of children sent to 23 receiving states. Paper prepared for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, Washington, DC. p. 2.
17 Orphans and Vulnerable Children Care Reform Initiative, Ghana. (n.d.b). The care reform initiative (CRI) — 2006/2010. Retrieved October 28, 2010, from http://www.ovcghana.org/what_is_cri.html.
18 Orphans and Vulnerable Children Care Reform Initiative, Ghana, n.d.b.