Governments urged to reduce support for orphanages and help families instead

By agency reporter
December 21, 2019

Governments all over the world now have a unique chance to end the support of orphanages and the unnecessary separation of children from their parents, and instead focus on helping families to care for their children, says Save the Children.

The charity welcomed a ground-breaking decision by all 193 UN members states in New York on 19 December 2019. By adopting a Rights of the Child resolution unanimously, they committed to gradually end support to orphanages and similar institutions, and instead focus on family and community-based care for children.

By adopting the resolution, the UN General Assembly also committed itself to improving data collection on children without parental care, and to tackle the drivers of the unnecessary separation of children, such as volunteering and financial support to orphanages. Tourist visits and volunteering in orphanages supports an industry that exploits children and makes them vulnerable to trafficking and abuse.

Rebecca Smith, Senior Child Protection Adviser at Save the Children, said: “The majority of children in orphanages have at least one living parent. More needs to be done to support families to better care for their children, instead of sending them to an institution.”

“An orphanage is no place for children to grow up. Decades of research have shown that the institutionalisation of children is harmful to their physical, mental and social development. In addition, it disconnects them from their extended family, which in many countries is the only safety net they have.”

“While the majority of countries in the west have long moved away from this practice, many western people and organisations still support this harmful model in countries overseas.”

“This resolution is a historic chance for governments to really invest in child protection systems with well trained and screened social workers, who can support vulnerable children and families. To ensure real change, governments need to address the reasons children are often in care in the first place such as poverty, and having access to education and health services.”

Save the Children will support governments wherever possible to transition safely from orphanages to community-based care and to ensure that child’s perspectives, rights, and wellbeing are respected in this process. 

An estimated eight million vulnerable children worldwide live in poorly equipped orphanages and similar institutions which are harmful to their physical, social and intellectual development and expose them to a greater risk of violence, abuse, exploitation and trafficking.

It is estimated that around 80 per cent of these children have at least one parent, but they live in orphanage because the parent or direct family is too poor to provide for them.

Save the Children started working on the issue of children without appropriate care after the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. It coordinated family tracing and reunification together with the Red Cross, which lead to more than 56,000 children being reunited with their families over a six-year period.

Save the Children is part of ReThink Orphanages, a coalition of child protection agencies, travel and tourism organisations, faith organisations, and education specialists to raise awareness about the negative effects of volunteering in orphanages and instead support ethical alternatives. 

* ReThink Orphanages https://rethinkorphanages.org/

* Save the Children https://www.savethechildren.net/

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