Village Hive Deep Dive

Core principles of the Village Hive model:

Each Village Hive is unique. These are the core concepts that underpin the model.

Child protection systems in both the developed and developing world are failing. More children than ever before in history are being separated from family and placed in orphanages, group homes, shelters or foster care. Once entering ‘the system’, a very different life trajectory is set in motion. Children who fall into these systems are far more likely to lead lives of crime, abuse, mental illness and suicide.

Pouring funds and resources into end-stage interventions, interventions that are downstream from the problem, are often so much costlier, both in terms of dollars and cost to society, than adopting an ‘upstream approach’ that addresses the root causes.

The imagery of a river as an analogy (borrowed from Rishi Manchanda’s Ted Talk) illustrates the difference between an upstream and downstream approach:

People standing by a river see children being washed down the fast-flowing stream. They jump in to save the children from drowning. One by one, they begin pulling them to safety. The children who are pulled from the river are badly hurt and will bear the scars for the rest of their lives. There are not enough people to reach all the children so many slip through.

Other people who witness this happening, don’t jump into the river to join the rescue. Instead, they head upstream and find out why so many children are falling in. They then begin implementing interventions to prevent the children from falling into the river in the first place. Soon enough, there are so few children in the river that much of the downstream response is no longer required.

Now, when a child does fall into the river, the downstream response is not overburdened and can ensure no child ever slips through again.

The downstream approach is reactive. It’s focused on responding to existing problems and implementing interventions that mitigate the harm and negative impact.

The upstream approach is preventative. It’s focused on identifying and ameliorating the root cause of the problems and intervening early before the harm occurs.

That is why CCT’s Village Hive model focuses on prevention and early intervention. By strengthening vulnerable families, we can prevent children from falling into the orphanage system and from facing adversity in their early life.

Paternalism is hugely problematic in social work and international development. When professionals interfere with a person’s right to self-determination, motivated by a claim that interference is for the person’s own good, they inadvertently disempower the people they are trying to help. The fact is, families are the experts in their own lives and communities are best placed to know how best to protect children in their village.

Co-creating programs and services with local communities means we can equip vulnerable families to meet the challenges in their lives, rather than stepping in to do it for them.

CCT’s Village Hive model is co-created with local communities, local government and families at every step along the way. Networks are mobilised to place families and communities in the driving seat, determining the best approach to child protection in their village. When families and communities are empowered to identify their own solutions, it is always more sustainable and effective than when solutions or plans are imposed upon them.

Intergenerational poverty, a lack of access to basic needs such as nutrition, clean water, shelter, education and healthcare, low earning capacity, physical and mental illness, trauma, PTSD, disability, debt, untreated illness and addiction are just some of the issues that lead to crisis in a family.

A holistic approach is required to untangle the complex web of social issues that cause families to become vulnerable. The solution needs to be comprehensive, in-depth and tailored to each family and community. It needs to ensure that children can remain living in their families without compromising on safety, education, nutrition and healthcare.

CCT’s Village Hive achieves this by bringing a holistic network of services into communities and mobilising networks to support families.

Often in child protection and international development, we get so caught up with identifying problems that we overlook the family’s strengths, existing resources and support networks.

Using a strengths-based approach is a simple way to identify and amplify what is going well, build on it and do more of it.

CCT’s Village Hive social workers use Signs of Safety, a strengths-based, safety-organised approach to child protection casework grounded in partnership and collaboration. 

Our Village Hive model is informed by more than 60 years of international research on the science of attachment and early childhood development, established through decades of neuroscience and behavioral research.

Follow these links to key resources:

CCT's Village Hive addresses the following issues:

Orphanages are harmful to children—regardless of how well they are run or whether their operators are well-intentioned.

More than 60 years of international research has shown that growing
up in institutions can have a serious and lifelong impact on children’s physical, emotional and psychological development.

Young adults who have grown up in institutions are 10 times more likely to fall into sex work; 40 times more likely to have a criminal record; and 500 times more likely to commit suicide.

Despite the harmful impact that orphanages have on children, the number of orphanages across the developing world has skyrocketed in recent years.

In Cambodia, the number of orphanages has increased by more than
75% since 2005; the number of children living in orphanages has nearly
doubled. This pattern is evident across the developing world.

The cause of the orphanage boom is NOT due to an increase in the
number of orphans or an increase in levels of poverty. In Cambodia, the
number of orphans and the poverty rate are in steady decline.
The orphanage boom is fuelled by foreign-funding. The increase in donations from well-meaning foreigners – tourists, volunteers and philanthropists – have caused more orphanages to open and more children to be separated from their families to fill their beds.

Orphanages in the developing world are all foreign-funded, set-up in
tourist areas, and the vast majority of children in these orphanages are
not orphans.

Early experiences are built into our brains and bodies. Stable and responsive relationships in children’s lives promote the development of healthy brain architecture, establish well-functioning immune, cardiovascular, and metabolic systems, and strengthen the building blocks of resilience.

When children are separated from their parents suddenly and forcibly, a massive biological stress response is triggered in the child, which remains activated until the parent returns and provides comfort.

When a child’s stress response systems are activated, their heart rate and blood pressure go up, stress hormone levels become elevated, blood sugar rises, and inflammatory responses are mobilised. This is the “fight or flight” response. This response is automatic and essential for survival, but it is designed to go back to normal when the threat is over. If the sense of danger continues, ongoing activation of the stress response shifts from protection to damage. The excessive and prolonged nature of what we call “toxic stress” increases the risk of lifelong problems.

Therefore, the continued separation of children from their parent can cause long-term damage. When stress hormones are persistently elevated, a child’s brain circuits are disrupted that affect memory, the ability to focus attention and regulate behaviour. Their risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, depression, and many other chronic illnesses is significantly increased.

In summary: 

The separation of children from their parent or primary caregiver is a profoundly traumatic experience for both the child and the parent.

Thousands of studies converge on the following two core scientific concepts:

  1. A strong foundation for healthy development in young children requires a stable, responsive, and supportive relationship with at least one parent or primary caregiver.
  2. High and persistent levels of stress activation (known as “toxic stress”) can disrupt the architecture of the developing brain and other biological systems with serious negative impacts on learning, behaviour, and lifelong health.

That is why CCT’s Village Hive is focused on preventing child-family separation and other adversity in childhood. By mobilising Family Networks around vulnerable families, we can successfully preserve the natural bonds and relationships in children’s lives.

* The above information comes from The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.