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Examining the trajectories of children providing care for adults in rural Kenya: implications for service delivery

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Research on caregiving children tends to be limited to children's caregiving experiences of parents with a specific disease or disability. This has led to a common perception that children's caregiving is a single, uniform and often long-term experience. Whilst this is most certainly the case for many children in economically more advanced countries, this may not hold true in rural Africa, where poverty and AIDS can have significant knock-on effects on entire families and communities. This paper seeks to develop a more complex understanding of children's caring experiences by asking children whom they have cared for over time and explore the different pathways that lead to their caregiving at different stages of their lives. The study reports on qualitative data collected from 48 caregiving children and 10 adults in the Bondo district of western Kenya in 2007. A multi-method approach was adapted, with historical profiles, Photovoice and draw-and-write essays complementing 34 individual interviews and 2 group discussions. A thematic network analysis revealed that children's caregiving was not confined to a single experience. Children were observed to provide care for a number of different family and community members for varying periods of time and intensities. Although their living arrangements and life circumstances often gave them little choice but to care, a social recognition of children's capacity to provide care for fragile adults, helped the children construct an identity, which both children and adults drew on to rationalise children's continued and multiple caring experiences. The study concludes that agencies and community members looking to support caregiving children need to consider their care trajectories - including whom they care for as well as the order, intensity, location and duration of their past and likely future caring responsibilities.

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/36468/

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