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In Rwanda, the combined effects of the 1994 genocide and the AIDS pandemic have devastated the lives of children and families. More than 300,000 young people have been “left behind,” not only by parents and other caregivers who have died, but also by extended families and communities who stigmatize and fail to support them. The phenomenon of youth-headed households in the region is a relatively recent development. Despite the long history of fostering in sub-Saharan Africa, family and community safety nets are overstretched. Youth-headed households may be a legitimate coping strategy; however, children living in youth-headed households are less likely to attend school, have greater vulnerability to physical and mental health problems, and may demonstrate behavioral problems and hampered development. Although extended family members are a potential source of support, they are at times also the perpetrators of abuse, exploitation, and property grabbing following the parents’ death. The quasi-experimental study described in this brief tested a model of adult mentorship and support to improve psychosocial outcomes among youth-headed households. The study showed that mentoring can measurably mitigate adverse psychosocial outcomes among youth heads of households.






Horizons Program