Children need and have a right to be cared for by their parents and to grow up in a family environment. This has been recognized through years of experience and research as well as formally recognized under national and international laws, including the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Yet millions of children live in residential institutions; no one knows just how many. Around the world, over one million children have been orphaned or separated due to armed conflict, and 15 million children under the age of 15 years of age have lost one or both parents to AIDS. In many countries, institutions remain a major response to poverty or family breakdown. In many more, few or no mechanisms exist to ensure the most appropriate placements, encourage and support guardianship and adoption arrangements, and to provide support and monitoring for foster families. Much needs to be done to prevent unnecessary family separation by supporting families and communities and to develop better care alternatives when separation is inevitable.
Recognizing the urgent need for concerted action, Displaced Children and Orphans Fund (DCOF) and the Africa Bureau for Sustainable Development of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and Save the Children UK, came together to form the Better Care Network (BCN) in 2003. Initially, the BCN functioned as a loose affiliation of organizations and individuals exchanging information through a newsletter. As the listserv grew, and more information was exchanged via the Network, it became clear that the BCN served a vital role and a more formal, full-time structure was required.
In response, in 2005, the organizations mentioned above, together with Cooperative Relief and Assistance Everywhere (CARE USA), agreed to form and serve on the BCN Steering Committee and establish BCN Secretariat, housed at the UNICEF Headquarters office in New York.
In June 2006 BCN launched the Better Care Network website, in partnership with the Child Rights Information Network (CRIN).
In November 2014 BCN moved to its own office space located opposite the UN Headquarters in New York.
The mission of the BCN is to facilitate active information exchange and collaboration on the issue of children without adequate family care and advocate for technically sound policy and programmatic action on global, regional, and national levels in order to:
The BCN is guided by the UNCRC; the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (welcomed by the UN General Assembly in 2009) and the 2003 Stockholm Declaration on Children and Residential Care. The BCN is not a legal entity but an interagency network.