Most people view orphanages as a happy environment that provides care and support for children who have nowhere else to go. Some are even aware of the appalling conditions in which these children live, but still believe it is a "necessary evil". If not for orphanages, where would all the orphans go? They seem like the easy route, but what we don't realise is that these "orphanages" stunt the physical, mental and emotional development of a child.
The lack of individual care and attention foils brain development in children. They do not forge bonds with any individual and so any emotional progress is suppressed at an early age. A child in a family would have already forged a strong emotional bond with its mother, while a child in an orphanage competes for the individual attention they so desperately need. An orphanage does not offer the safe, secure and stimulating childhood that a family provides. The education these children receive does not compensate for the reality of being cut off from the outside world. Most of these children find themselves ill-prepared to face any struggle outside the gates of the orphanage.
Research has proven that children in orphanages experience developmental delays. Some are physically stunted and some have even experienced psychological trauma. These developmental delays manifest negatively as the children get older. Because they did not have an emotional attachment in their childhood, these orphans find it difficult to express emotions and form attachments in their adulthood.
Lumos, a charity founded by JK Rowling, works towards eradicating orphanages in favour of community-based services that enable families to take care of their children. Lumos works to help millions of children regain their right to a caring family. During her conversation with Eddie Redmayne at Carnegie Hall, Rowling said that children who grow up in institutions are six times more likely to have been abused, 10 times more likely to enter into prostitution, 40 times more likely to have a criminal record and are 500 times more likely to commit suicide. These predictions come from years of research.
What most people do not know is that most of the children that live in childcare institutions (80 percent to be exact) do, in fact, have family members that would be able to care for them if given the proper resources to do so. Some families only leave their children in orphanages because they do not have the means to look after them. Orphanages promise education, food and safety, and parents believe their child will be well looked after. We now know that this is not true. Orphanages make institutionalisation seem like the only way for the child to survive and this persuades parents to give up their children.
Orphanages in disaster zones and poor countries receive an amount of money for every child they take in. This turns it into a business, and children are essentially trafficked for a profit. As Rowling stated, this is an entirely solvable problem. Firstly, the eight million children who currently live in institutions need to be removed and placed with caring families. Secondly, orphanages need to be eradicated so that more children are not forced to enter that environment.
Institutionalising children is not an act of kindness. It is, in fact, a tremendously damaging act.
With the better channelling of funds, community-based services such as free schools and free clinics can be established. These services would give families the money and resources they need to take care of their children. Lumos works with people within the communities to establish this system by providing funding and offering help.
Lumos is a charity worth supporting as it works hard to place children with families where they will receive the care and attention that institutions cannot provide. Institutionalising children is not an act of kindness. It is, in fact, a tremendously damaging act.
People need to become aware of the reality of institutions so that money that is so generously donated to such places can be used to place children in a family environment. It's import to understand that institutions are not conducive to child development.