In many places around the world an older child can find themselves forced by circumstances to assume the role of a parent. Such ‘child headed families’ or “child headed households’ are usually most common in developing countries where parents have died due to war, or other circumstances or where parents are absent for other reasons. Usually the eldest child will take on the responsibility for looking after the younger siblings. Africa is thought to have the largest number of child-headed families with in HIV/AIDS epidemic resulting in the death of many parents but they can be found the world over.
At the same time as facing their own bereavement or other issues, children taking on such responsibilities often stop going to school and instead try to earn money to keep the family going. This can result in predators feeding on their vulnerability. They are also less likely to live in formal dwellings, or to have proper access to sanitation and water. In Africa, this is partly because they are disproportionately located outside of cities, where better services are available.
Arms Around the Child has been supporting Carol Dyanti in Soweto, South Africa with lkageng Itireleng which operates as a community outreach project for orphaned and vulnerable children many of whom find themselves inadvertently heading a household.