Orphanages Are Closing But Not Fast Enough


orphanages closingAn article recently published in the Economist magazine has highlighted a positive trend in caring for children without families. The article finds that in nations around the world, orphanages and/or children’s homes are either closing or the number of children living in them is decreasing.


The world’s population of children living in institutions is thought to be about two million. This is difficult to track and the population could be larger. But, whatever the number it’s clear that pressures from within and without are encouraging governments to remove children from institutional care. In Romania, a country notorious for its treatment of institutionalized children, the population of orphans has fallen from 32,000 in 2004 to 9,000 last year. In Rwanda the number of orphanages has declined from over 400 in 2007 to only 33 in 2012. The government has promised to close them all by 2014.



Closer to home, the United State’s Aid for International Development has implemented the National Action Plan on Children in Adversity (NAP). This policy statement includes the US commitment to advocate for children living without the benefit of family care. MLJ Adoptions has joined the Joint Council and other advocacy organizations in supporting this initiative which is meant to guide and educate policy makers as they develop policies that will impact children.



This emphasis on family care is a boon to child welfare as there are three compelling reasons why getting children out of institutions and into a family care setting is imperative:


    1. Children do not thrive in institutions. Since 2000 American academics have kept track of 136 children from orphanages in Romania. They have found that the IQ levels of children who remained in big care homes are lower than those put in foster care. John Williamson of the Better Care Network, a charity, and Aaron Greenberg of the UN argue that for every three months that a child stays in an institution he or she loses one month of development.


    1. Orphanages can prevent children from being with their families. It is thought that as many as 90% of orphans may actually have at least one living parent. Parents place their children in the orphanage due to their inability to provide and care for that child and the local orphanage offers the most expedient solution.


    1. Institutions are costly. Studies from the World Bank and Save the Children say institutions cost between six and ten times as much as supporting a child within a family.



At MLJ Adoptions, we have always known the importance of family care to children. Our interim care program in the Democratic Republic of Congo was established with this idea in mind. After a child is matched with a family, that child is moved out of the orphanage and into a family setting where they receive more care and attention than they would otherwise receive in the orphanage. In addition, we created the Hope for DRC campaign which is dedicated to preserving the option of international adoption for children whose only other alternative would be to live in an institution.



We may never arrive at a point in history where zero children live in an institution, but, it is encouraging that the number of these children has fallen and that an internationally-respected publication like the Economist has chosen to bring attention to this issue. And it is imperative that all of us continue to advocate for children who must live without the benefit of a permanent, loving home.



Photo Credit: Robert Croma



For more information about MLJ Adoptions’ international adoption programs, please click here.

Sheri Molnar is the Director of Operations and Finance at MLJ Adoptions. Visiting children living in institutions in Honduras and Congo has provided her with a tremendous motivation to come into work each day and work tirelessly on behalf of children in need of loving, permanent homes.