For many parents, their only option is to put their child in an orphanage
Poverty, discrimination, war and natural disaster are all factors that can cause children to become separated from their families. For many desperate parents seeking help, their only option is to put their child in an orphanage.
In Sri Lanka, 80% of children in orphanages have at least one living parent. With support, most families could care for their children at home. Children without families could be looked after in family-like environments or through community-based services such as adoption and fostering, where they can be provided with the care to meet their needs.
More than 80 years of research proves that no matter how well an orphanage is run, children do not thrive,
and they flourish better even in the poorest families.
However, in Sri Lanka there are still more than 21,000 children currently living in orphanages.
Raising children in an orphanage, or other institution, harms their health and development. It increases their chances of abuse and puts them at risk of future criminal activity. The consequences of extreme neglect are not just physiological. There is also evidence of impairment of brain cognition, intelligence, and the ability to form relationships. They are significantly more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, suffer teenage pregnancy, have depression and commit suicide.
WHY ARE CHILDREN IN ORPHANAGES
THE PROBLEM WITH ORPHANAGES
Children in orphanages are isolated.
Children are isolated from their families, their communities and the outside world. They are often hidden inside orphanages, voiceless, segregated and without consideration of the potential support a family might need to stay together.
Even when orphanages and institutions are set up with good intentions, care is usually tailored to the needs of the institution, not the child. Staff struggle to cope with high numbers of children, particularly those with complex physical or psychological needs. Physical contact, care and attention become a luxury.
Good care has the child’s needs at its heart – whether that’s in a family or a family-like setting.
By closing institutions, supporting children into loving, stable families and working with governments to tackle the root causes of family breakdown, we are working towards a day where orphanages have been eradicated for good.
You can clearly see the difference in the image below, between a 3-year-old child brain which has been loved and nurtured to that of a child where these neurons have not developed.
This is at the core of TFT's work and why we think it is so important to get children in a safe and nurturing family environment from an early age to prevent irreparable damage.
Did You Know?
Most children in orphanages have families who love and want them, but are born into poverty, or with a disability, in a location where families have little or no support.
With access to health and social care, it is hard to imagine making the decision to place your child in an orphanage or institution. But for many families, there is no choice.
At Their Future Today, we have seen that extreme poverty is the main reason children are placed in orphanages.
Circumstances such as war or natural disaster, discrimination or disability exacerbate the issue and force desperately poor parents to seek help. Without support, their only option is to put their child in an orphanage.
Orphanages take children out of poor families with the promise of food, education or healthcare that their parents can’t access – or feel they are unable to give.
When you are struggling to feed your family, the burden of having to travel to access the right healthcare or education for your child seems impossible. With a lack of local infrastructure and support, it often is. Sadly, the reality is that even in orphanages, children can be neglected and exposed to serious abuse and harm. They are often traumatised by their experiences.
This all means that many children end up institutionalised for life.
But this shocking global problem has an affordable solution.
With support, most families could care for their children. And children without families can be looked after in foster or adoptive families, or in small group homes.