Child fostering in Africa: When labor and schooling motives may coexist
The paper proposes a theoretical framework for understanding purposive child fostering in Africa, whereby a non-orphaned child is sent to live temporarily with relatives. In the model, adults decide whether to foster in or out a child in conjunction with other household choices, e.g. own time allocation between market and non-market activities, children's amount of work, and schooling. By allowing for positive externalities from fostering, and thus asymmetric motives for fostering in (labor) and out (human capital), the proposed framework predicts that school-age children are sent to better-off households and that some families may foster in and out simultaneously. The model identifies the conditions under which all actors involved, children included, may benefit from fostering arrangements, but also points to situations where fostering may become an opportunity to marginalize a subset of children. The paper aims to provide a sound theoretical foundation that sheds light on why there exists mixed empirical evidence on the effects of fostering on children's well being, and cautions against demonizing non-parent residence as unequivocally detrimental to children.
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