Real Truths
  • Studies show that 80% of the 8 million children in orphanages/institutional care have at least one living parent.
  • In Cambodia alone the number of orphanages increased by 75% in a 5-year period from 2005.
  • In many institutions, the standard of care is extremely poor and many children are abused and neglected.
  • For all children, long term stays in institutions have lasting negative impacts.


Real Risks
  • Evidence shows that children (particularly those under three) are at risk of permanent developmental damage by not being cared for in a family setting.
  • Unsupervised public access to institutions places children at real risk of abuse.
  • Children who are institutionalized find it difficult to function in society when they leave the orphanage.
  • Many orphanages are run as businesses, with children kept in poor conditions to generate donations.
Real Voices
  • “Someone came and told me that if I gave the baby to an orphanage, they’d give me money. I cried when I gave away the baby. I cried.” [Cambodian mother, Save The Children report]
  • “We got thousands of dollars…but I don’t know where the money went” [Former residential care staff member quoted in newspaper].
  • “I feel like a duck in a cage, afraid someone will cook it.” [Young person in residential care].
  • “…my only friend is someone who used to be a teacher at the orphanage. I feel lonely. I would like to be a normal person” [Adult graduate of residential care, UNICEF report]
The Real Picture

“The mother had been searching for him for years. She thought he was dead. When we arrived in town his mother was working in the fields (on the other side of the river). When she saw him from the boat as she came home, she jumped out of the boat to swim to her kid. She cried, and fainted. When she finally woke up again, she and her son cried and hugged. That was six years ago. Now he lives at home, he has graduated from high-school, and works in a metal shop.” – Social worker comments on emotional bonds between parent and child (who had been placed in residential care)*

An emotional reunion between parent and child is shown in the example above. However, reintegration is not easy. The longer a child is institutionalized the harder it is for them to settle back into family life and normal society.

“At the shelter I only had to eat, sleep and study. Now I shop and cook, and take care of my sisters and brothers. It’s more work but I prefer living with my family. At first I was afraid of the market, but now I am not afraid anymore.” – Reintegrated child*

It is essential that early mechanisms to support reintegrated children and their families are in place to smooth the transition and ensure the family can stay together. Reintegration is a holistic, multi-layered process and it is not always helpful to isolate one factor alone, since successful reintegration relies on several factors working together. These factors can include school support and income generation in the family. There are often multiple challenges to face, however a refocusing of donor priorities from care institutions onto support for organizations working in the field with families will see these challenges being effectively addressed. In practical terms, the cost of supporting residential care is much higher than supporting a family to care for their child. Donor impact dollar for dollar can be much greater if focused on family support solutions, and can also be more positive as it reflects national and international legislation and priorities which promote family-centered non-residential care alternatives.

If you donate to support institutionalized care your good intentions may actually be causing harm to children, keeping them from their family and hampering their development. Most children in institutions do not need to be there. Many institutions are woefully inadequate in providing a duty of care or protection to children. In fact many are run as profit making businesses, pure and simple. The commodity they trade in? Children. The money they source to keep business booming? Yours.

star All these facts, numbers, and quotes can be found in the resources page.