Our Unique Model of Care

November 26, 2015
Beyond the Orphanage

Beyond the Orphanage employs a unique model of kinship or foster care designed by leading social policy professional, Dr Natalie Conner.

Here, Dr Conner describes the journey that led us to our unique model or care, how and why it’s effective in addressing the homelessness and vulnerability of Ethiopia’s orphans

If you are not in the social science field, a logic model can be a confusing, unhelpful diagram. In fact, for many of us in the social science field, logic models are confusing and unhelpful! So, then why did we insist on a logic model for Beyond the Orphanage?

In November 2011, Beyond the Orphanage founder Geoff Hucker invited me to come to Ethiopia to meet the social workers and to lead some professional development training. I was so impressed with their skills, their balance, and the processes already in place, all well thought out, implemented, and connected. It was out of this visit that the current logic model grew, naturally, simply, free of jargon – and I hope helpful and understandable.

Many children are effectively homeless at the age of 10

Strong organisations start with a clear definition of the problem to be addressed. From there, there should be clear connections between resources, actions, and interventions to advance the short and long term outcomes they hope to see. In Beyond the Orphanage’s case, the plight of millions of orphans is not the definition of the problem (although it is a big problem) – we go deeper in our understanding. Specifically, we know that many orphanages are filled to capacity, that children are asked to leave the orphanage at age 10 or 12. Looking at the demographics in that age range in Addis Ababa, this tells us that many children are effectively homeless at the age of 10.

Again, we go beyond the giant problem of homelessness as defined as being without a home. A home without natural supports, formal supports, and all the ingredients that go into making a healthy, productive human being is, well, just an empty space. We decide to tailor our actions; our interventions to providing all the ingredients orphaned children in poverty will need to heal, to thrive, and to grow into healthy, productive adults.

The “actions”, or the parts of the Beyond the Orphanage intervention include:

  • Family finding (an intake process conducted in collaboration with local Women, Children, and Youth Affairs representatives: they exhaustively know who are orphaned and what family members may be available to talk through possible placements)
  • Team decision making (TDM- a collaboration between child, guardian, BTO staff to make choices for best interests of child)
  • Saturday sessions (twice/month, objectives are to enhance life skills, education, psychosocial support)
  • Daily drop-in center with homework assistance, tutoring, computers, and books
  • Mentoring
  • Psychological support
  • Guardian trainings (to improve parenting skills)
  • Educational support (school stipends and material supports)
  • Emergency concrete services ($, transport, food, clothes)
  • Health services (prevention, education, intervention)

In general, our goal is that each child the organisation works with will succeed in spite of the difficult paths they have traveled. Specifically, the outcomes we expect to see are lumped into two categories: increased protective factors and reduced risk factors.

You can read more on increased protective factors and reduced risk factors on tomorrow’s blog.

Natalie Conner PhD is a specialist in Social Work, Social Policy and Intervention Research. She is the main architect of our unique model-of-care and mother to three children. 

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