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A Theoretical Framework for Child Fostering Arrangements in Sub-Saharan Africa

Author(s): R. Serra

The paper provides a first economic analysis of the phenomenon of fostering in Sub-Saharan Africa, it pays particular attention to the economic incentives and implications for both natural and foster parents. Fostering, both of young and older children, can be a mutually advantageous arrangement to natural and foster parents, when it utilizes the differences between the two parties in the opportunity cost of time, in the life cycle phases, and in the potential for child education and training. In some cases, the transfer of a child per se can bring net benefits to both parties. Therefore, monetary transfers are not always necessary to make fostering exchanges mutually advantageous. However, fostering arrangements do not always lead to all  parties benefiting equally, even allowing over a long period of time. This is because fostering transactions may be embedded within other types of relationships between natural and foster parents, who are usually relatives. In such instances, fostering provides functions that lie beyond the remit of child care, such as informal insurance and kinship support. The effects of fostering on child welfare do not depend on the way benefits are distributed among the parties, and are often linked to the child's own characteristics. Fostering is more often the consequence, rather than the cause, of the observed discrimination against children.

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