Transfers of Belonging, Erdmute Alber traces the history of child fostering in northern Benin from the pre-colonial past to the present by pointing out the embeddedness of child foster practices and norms in a wider political process of change. Child fostering was, for a long time, not just one way of raising children, but seen as the appropriate way of doing so. This changed profoundly with the arrival of European ideas about birth parents being the ‘right’ parents, but also with the introduction of schooling and the differentiation of life chances. Besides providing deep historical and ethnographical insights,
Transfers of Belonging offers a new theoretical frame for conceptualizing parenting.
The voices of orphans and other vulnerable children and young people and of their carers and professional development workers are documented and analysed to both criticise the inadequacies of current social development work and to create a new, alternative theory and practice of project management in Zimbabwe and southern Africa. This is the first extensive and intensive empirical study of Zimbabwean orphans and other vulnerable children and young people. Chronically poor children and their carers can be corrupted or silenced by management systems which fail to recognise their basic human needs. Resilience in the face of such adversity is celebrated by the dominant project management ideology and practice but is a major barrier to achieve genuine sustainable improvements in the lives of vulnerable children. We propose a new person-centred project management approach aimed at delivering comprehensive services for orphans, which explicitly recognises the needs of orphans and other poor children to be fully socially, politically and economically included within their communities and which avoids the reinforcement of power based inequalities and their unacceptable consequences. The moral bankruptcy of much social development work in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Southern Africa is described and we delineate an alternative project management policy and practice.
Child fostering is an age-old and also modern phenomenon whose importance stretches much further than the boundaries of so-called ‘traditional’ African societies. As a mobile and creative kinship practice, child fostering is of growing importance in the global world as it goes along with other forms of mobility such as migration and transnationalism. The book aims to revitalize the study of fostering by situating the issue in more recent theoretical approaches to kinship. It also examines what functionalist and structuralist theory may still contribute to the understanding of child fostering. Historical and recent child fostering practices in several West African countries are discussed from the angles of Anthropology, History and Law.