Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Anne Westhues

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


The purpose of this thesis was to examine the perceptions of caregivers in a Polish orphanage about how well orphanages support child development. Through in-depth, semi-structured interviews with eleven caregivers, I explored their opinions about what does and does not work well to support a child’s developmental needs in the areas of physical growth and health, cognitive growth, emotional development and in particular the ability to form secure attachments, and the development of life and social skills. This case study also involved observations of children in an oprhange setting and a document analysis. The aim of this study was to generate ideas about how to strengthen substitute care services for children in Poland rather than evaluation of an organization. The general conclusion reached is that caregivers do not believe that orphanages support children in developing to their capacity. Although orphanages can provide children with good nutrition and medical care, data showed that the children’s physical growth is below the national average for their age and gender groups. While orphanages can provide children with a good environment for cognitive development, children were perceived to lack the motivation to study and consequently, did not grow intellectually or achieve as much academically as they might. This was attributed to the high staff turnover and low caregiver-to-child ratio, indicating that children receive limited individual care. This lack of individual care and constant turnover of caregivers was understood to create an environment that did not support the formation of secure attachments and a general sense of security and belonging. Orphanages were seen to be able to support children in the development of life skills like cleaning and laundering clothes, but not others like money management, shopping, and dealing with bureaucracies. Caregivers also reported that children who were cared for in orphanages were not skilled in creating friendships. Caregivers offered suggestions for changes in the operation of orphanages, and in the structure of substitute care more generally, that would better support child development. The thesis concludes with recommendations that build on these suggestions.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Included in

Social Work Commons