Babington, Brian Keith
It is estimated that between two and eight million children live
in orphanages or other residential institutions in the developing
world (the Global South) and in the former Eastern Bloc. In
recent decades the UN and international non-government
organisations have called upon governments in these countries to
develop and implement policies to ‘deinstitutionalise’, or
reduce substantially the number of children who live in
Despite this...[Show more] heightened interest, research into how and why
deinstitutionalisation policy change occurs remains in its
infancy, especially with regard to the Global South. Using a
discourse analysis methodology advanced by Hajer this
dissertation sheds light on deinstitutionalisation policymaking
in Indonesia. Specifically, it asks: What factors led Indonesia
to adopt a policy during the 2000s to reduce reliance on a type
of children’s institution known as panti asuhan?
The prevailing explanation for Indonesia’s policy change has
been that it decided in the mid-2000s to comply more fully with
the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which opposes
the separation of children from their parents except in special
circumstances. Through field interviews and other analysis I
show, however, that political, economic, cultural, and religious
discourses—rather than concerns about children’s rights
only—predominated in shaping new policy.
I identify three phases in developing the new panti asuhan
policy. First, from the late 1990s, a pro-reform group (or
‘discourse-coalition’) began to agitate for policy change.
Second, in the mid-2000s, a ‘status quo’ discourse-coalition
which supported panti asuhan opposed prospective policy change.
Finally, the Indonesian Government’s wish to signal its
adherence to international children’s rights standards, align
policy with changed national economic, social and administrative
directions, and avoid conflict with pro-panti asuhan forces
generated the final policy outcome under which panti asuhan would
continue to play a central, if somewhat changed, role while
appearing to comply with Indonesia’s children’s rights
obligations. Rather than designed only to benefit children, final
policy thus attempted to appease both pro-reform and pro-panti
The study provides important messages for practice and research.
For policymakers and advocates, employing Hajer’s methodology
can improve understandings about factors that impede or advance
progress on deinstitutionalisation policymaking in other
countries of the Global South. The study also contributes new
understandings to literatures on deinstitutionalisation, public
policy, and on panti asuhan themselves. It extends research into
the deinstitutionalisation of children’s institutions by being
the first to apply Hajer’s methodology to understand how this
type of policymaking occurred in the Global South. As well as
shedding further light on Indonesian social policy in general, it
also provides new understandings about attitudes towards, and the
operations of, panti asuhan.
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