Highly Vulnerable Children Research Center

Strengthening the Psychosocial Well-being of Youth-headed Households in Rwanda: Baseline Findings from an Intervention Trial

This report presents the baseline findings and sample characteristics from a study designed to test a model of adult mentorship and support to improve psychosocial outcomes among youth-headed households. A cross-sectional survey was conducted in March 2004 with World Vision Rwanda (WVR) program beneficiaries living in four districts of Gikongoro, the poorest region in Rwanda at the time. All youth-headed households served by the WVR basic needs project in four districts were approached to participate in the study.  A total of 692 face-to-face interviews were completed with youth heads of household age 24 and younger in their homes. The survey sample included almost equal numbers of male and female participants; most (72 percent) were between the ages of 19 and 24 at the time of interview (range 12 to 24 years). For 70 percent of respondents, both parents were deceased. The remainder reported having been abandoned or do not know their parent’s whereabouts. The vast majority (80 percent) of youth were responsible for one or more children, with nearly a third caring for three or more children.

The findings of this baseline research offer insights into the complex needs of orphans and vulnerable youth, which extend beyond basic material support. It is clear from the survey and focus groups conducted with youth that many long to have someone to talk to, someone to teach them skills, someone to protect and defend them and, most of all, to feel that the community cares about them. This love, support, and comfort must come from the neighbors, family, and friends who comprise their communities. This study reveals the psychosocial consequences for youth lacking an adult caregiver or confidante in their lives. The project team hopes that the mentorship program will help fill this gap in care and support among youth-headed households, and strengthen community support networks to provide healthy and safe places for vulnerable children and youth in Gikongoro. The success and challenges of the mentor program are documented in the next report, listed below, which focuses on the 2006 follow-up research.

Suggested Citation: Brown, L., Thurman, T.R., & Snider, L. (2005). Strengthening the Psychosocial Well-being of Youth-headed Households in Rwanda: Baseline Findings from an Intervention Trial. Horizons Research Update. Washington, D.C.: Population Council.

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