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Child fosterage and the developmental markers of children in Namibia, southern Africa: Implications of gender and kinship

Jill R Brown, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The primary purpose of this mixed method study is to better understand the practice of child fosterage among Owambo speaking people in Namibia, Southern Africa. The practice of child fosterage is a cultural practice of child care whereas children are raised by someone other than the biological parent. It is hypothesized that the context in which these children enter fosterage arrangements is crucial to understanding the outcomes child fosterage affords children. This study focuses on the cultural logic of fosterage, (relationships between families involved) the context (characteristics of mother and household, kinship, relationships between families) and the outcomes (health, education) for children. The study utilized the existing 2000 Namibian Demographic and Health Survey (N=5949) and a multiple case study of 4 families connected by child fosterage in Namibia. Quantitative results indicate that characteristics of the child, mother and household predict if a child is fostered. Fostered children experience less education and probability of attending school than biological children. Degree of relatedness to the head of household further differentiates the disparities. No differences were found between orphans and non-orphans in education or health. Themes of equality between children and rules of negotiating the fostering arrangement emerged as important constructs from the qualitative case study. Fosterage seems to be a protective factor for orphans closely related to their caretakers. Gender differences emerged and seemed to disadvantage less closely related boys. Understanding how gender and kinship, and the broader context of fosterage shape family life for both orphans and non orphans may help the development community identify interventions for the most vulnerable of children in Africa. ^

Subject Area

Anthropology, Cultural|Psychology, Developmental|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

Recommended Citation

Brown, Jill R, "Child fosterage and the developmental markers of children in Namibia, southern Africa: Implications of gender and kinship" (2007). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3271917.