Comhlámh > Volunteering and Orphanage Care

Put Children First:
End Orphanage Care

Comhlámh and the End Orphanage Volunteering Working Group 
are calling on you to help change how children are cared for.

Orphanage care is harmful to children and orphanage volunteering increases this harm. Children belong in families where they can get the love and attention they need.

Support our Put Children First Campaign so that more children can grow up in a family. Make an individual pledge that you won’t support orphanage volunteering or visits. Eendorse our policy asks to support global care reform as an organisation, university, college or other body.

THE INSTITUTIONALISATION OF CHILDREN: THE GLOBAL PROBLEM

Children have a right to grow up with a family that cares for them. Yet…  

5.4mln

An estimated 5.4 million children live in institutions worldwide, primarily because of poverty, lack of access to health and education services, and discrimination.
 
Read the research 

80%

More than 80% of children living in orphanages have at least one living parent. They have extended family members and communities that could care for them, given the right support. 

Look at the global picture

17x

Children with disabilities are 17 times more likely to live in orphanages than their peers. 



Learn more

Why institutional care is harmful for children?

Research has shown that orphanage care is harmful to children, resulting in significant delays in physical growth and brain development, causing social and emotional difficulties, and exposing children to neglect and abuse.

There is also increasing evidence of the links between institutions and trafficking. Reports have shown that many children do not get the promised education or healthcare and typically gain lower levels of literacy and numeracy and fewer educational attainments than their peers.

Why volunteering in orphanages is harmful for children?

Reports highlight that the regular turnover of volunteers and visitors to orphanages is harmful to children’s development and wellbeing and increases their exposure to abuse and exploitation.

Orphanage volunteering, visiting and overseas donations can also sustain the ‘orphanage industry’ with institutions being set up to meet the demand from well-meaning travellers and donors. There are increasing instances of children being trafficked to populate profit making institutions.

Even well run and resourced orphanages with staff that care about the children cannot replace the love and stability of family-based care.

Listen to the voices of care experts with lived experience

Children Belong in Families

Peter K. Muthui, Care Leaver and Director of Child in Family Focus, Kenya talks about how children need one on one care and attention and trusting relationships, and how only a family can provide this.

Ending Orphanage Volunteering: Why Care Experts With Lived Experience Are Calling for Change

Sinet Chan, Ambassador for Cambodian Children’s Trust, talks about the neglect and abuse that she experienced growing up in an orphanage; and how orphanage volunteering contributed to feelings of abandonment and to exploitation.

CHANGING THE WAY WE CARE: THE GLOBAL CARE REFORM MOVEMENT

There is now a growing global movement working to keep families together and to gradually close down orphanages, replacing them with family support services and alternatives such as foster and kinship care when necessary. This movement includes UN bodies and governments, NGO’s, child protection specialists and care experts with lived experience.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

We are asking you to Put Children First and help End Orphanage Care:

If you are an individual

SIGN THE PLEDGE

Pledge that you will neither promote nor engage in volunteering and/or visits to institutions for children and to further educate yourself around the harm caused by orphanage volunteering and institutions.

SIGN THE PLEDGE NOW

If you are an organisation

ENDORSE OUR RECOMMENDATIONS

Endorse our key policy recommendations to support the global care reform movement. Link to endorsement campaign page. For further information and to endorse please contact Sandra at Sandra@comhlamh.org
FIND OUT MORE

YOU CAN DO MORE

Signing the pledge shows your commitment but now it’s the time to do something more. See below how you can help: