‘We have similar sad stories’: A life history analysis of left-behind children in Cambodian residential care

Author/s: Yao Fu, Lucy P. Jordan, Iris Hoiting, Thida Kim, Kolitha Wickramage
Language: English
Publication Type: Scientific Report (Journal)(External)

Download this Publication

Globally, labor migration of parents has resulted in a growing number of children and adolescents being left behind in the areas from where migrants depart. In many countries a single parent or grandparents often act as children’s primary caregivers when parents migrate, while residential care has been found to an emergent caregiving arrangement for left-behind children in Cambodia. This phenomenon raises the questions: 1) how parental migration and other contextual factors contribute to Cambodian children’s entry to residential care, and 2) how do these children conceptualize and experience this type of care? This study adopts a qualitative research design to identify the major pathways into residential care for children of migrant workers in Cambodia, and to understand how the children perceive this type of care. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with 25 children currently living in residential care institutions (RCIs) and 17 stakeholders, two primary pathways into RCIs in the context of migration in Cambodia are identified. The first pathway stems from the undocumented or irregular migration of parents where the children themselves are often engaged in child labor, leading to a child’s move into an RCI following detention. The second pathway stems from the interplay of parental migration, family poverty and family instability, influencing a child’s placement in an RCI. The results show there are perceived benefits of living in RCIs, but also highlight the children’s unmet emotional needs. Overall, this study increases our understanding of children’s pathways into RCIs in a high migration context, to better inform services for children who potentially face cumulative risks from parent-child separation induced by migration and living outside family care.

Region/Country (by coverage)
Children and Youth Services Review