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Families not orphanages

At Tearfund Ireland we don’t usually support orphanages because our experience has shown us that they are not the most beneficial way to help children. Even the best orphanages cannot replace the individual love and care that children need from a family-environment and at worst orphanages can become places of abuse and neglect. By providing a low level of support we have found that foster families can be found and these children can grow up in safe and happy environment. The main reasons we do not support orphanages can be found below. Read the Families Not Orphanages Report and Putting Child Protection and Family care at the heart of EU External Action to learn more.

  1. Psychosocial impact – Children in residential care demonstrate a significantly increased level of social maladjustment, aggression, attention demanding behaviour, sleep disturbance, extremes of over-affection or repelling affection, social immaturity and tendency to depression. Many of these difficulties result from the lack of availability of appropriate, nurturing, stable “mother substitutes” in residential care.
  2. Physical impact – Studies have shown that children can develop medical and psychological abnormalities arising from institutionalization in residential care facilities such as orphanages and children’s homes. These include physical and brain growth deficiencies, cognitive problems, speech and language delays, sensory integration difficulties, social and behavioural abnormalities, difficulties with inattention/hyperactivity, disturbances of attachment, and a syndrome that mimics autism.
  3. Lack of sustainability – From an economic perspective, the cost of supporting a child in residential care is about twelve times the cost of support in a community based care program. Since orphan numbers continue to grow rapidly and outstrip available resources, residential care is not considered a viable option for caring for the majority of orphans in the developing world. The UN points out that, “orphanages for 14 million orphans simply cannot be built and sustained”.
  4. Disconnectedness – In the community, children are able to stay together with their siblings (a tremendous source of solace and support) and maintain a sense of connectedness with their extended family, their neighbours, their childhood friends, their culture, their heritage and their land. Children taken out of their communities are raised in situations which do not prepare them for life as an adult. Residential care does not prepare orphans for adulthood in the community.
  5. Abuse – Children in residential care may be subject to physical, sexual or emotional abuse by staff or older children, and in the majority of developing countries there are no established child protection services to ensure a child’s safety or prevent future abuse to other children. These cases are increasingly coming to light in the West and there is no reason to believe that they may not be just as widespread in the developing world.
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