OVERUSE OF RESIDENTIAL CARE
A: WHO LIVES IN ORPHANAGES?
Most people believe that children in orphanages are orphans; children, who due to parental death, displacement or abandonment, have no where to live and no one to care for them. Statistics show that this is rarely the case. The reality is that most children in orphanages have living parents. The majority of true orphans don’t live in orphanages but are cared for by their relatives in the community.
B: WHY ARE CHILDREN PLACED IN ORPHANAGES?
Children are placed into residential care for numerous reasons most commonly related to poverty, family crisis, access to education and disability. In countries where there are very few community-based services designed to assist families, the presence of orphanages will create orphans.
Desperate families will place their children in an orphanage in order to ensure the child accesses food, clothing and education. In most cases these parents love their children and do not wish to be separated from them, but may have no other options. In this sense orphanages create a pull factor which encourages family separation.
Orphanages continue to receive widespread support from overseas donors and visitors, which results in vast amounts of resource directed towards residential care services disproportionate to actual need.
C: WHAT ABOUT TRUE ORPHANS?
Whilst the vast majority of children in orphanages have parents, there are some children who have no family, or cannot live with their families for reasons of safety, despite support. For these children there are other options that should be explored before they are admitted into residential care.
These options include kinship care, foster care or domestic adoption where a permanent placement is required. These are all forms of family-based care and are preferable to the long-term placement of a child in an orphanage, as they protect the child’s right to grow up in a family and as a part of a community.