Exploring the cultural conceptualisations and understandings of child fostering and the concept of the child's best interests among the Dagomba of Northern Ghana
Ibrahim, Kamal Dokurugu
Anthropological and demographic studies show that in sub-Sahara Africa a large proportion of non-orphaned children (up to 1/3 in many communities) live with neither parent but often with relatives for a significant part of their childhood. This practice is referred to as child fostering or fosterage. Child fostering is therefore understood in the literature as the transfer, and/or sharing, of parental responsibility of children and young people or simply the movement of children and young people between and within families. The practice is both an age-old and a modern phenomenon which has implications in the daily and future lives of those children involved including their nutrition, health, education, migration and ultimately their best interests. Depending on the context, culture, rationale and families involved in the fostering of a particular child the practice is carried out differently across geographies and sometimes within geographies as a result of which it deserves academic attention. The overarching aim of this study is therefore to explore the cultural conceptualisations and understandings of child fostering and the concept of the child’s best interests among the Dagomba of northern Ghana. The study also examines the challenges of existing legislation and policies in Ghana regarding the practice. The study employed a qualitative research approach and involved children and young people, birth and foster parents and professionals who influence policies about children and young people in Ghana. In total, 42 respondents participated in individual interviews. I also used ‘spider diagrams’ as a supplementary research instrument for children and young people because I considered these child-friendly, fun and culturally appropriate for their ages (See Appendix IX). The emergent themes are explored and discussed in four findings chapters under part four of the thesis. The majority of respondents demonstrated extensive knowledge about child fostering and the concept of the child’s best interests. Respondents’ critical views and their recommendations for legislation and policy in Ghana are reflected on in the penultimate chapter. Finally, recommendations are made by way of contribution to theory, policy and practice. The research also suggests areas for future research by way of a reflection.