Seattle woman fights to help Afghan orphans

There are over 8,500 orphans living in 30 different government-run orphanages in Kabul, 2019864946Afghanistan. Unlike the population of orphans found in many countries, over 50% of these children have no living relatives due to the ongoing violence in Afghanistan. However, corruption plagues the care that orphanages provide to this population. One such orphanage called Tahya e-Maskan uses young boys for “bacha bazi” or boy play which involves young boys dancing for older men, a situation that results in sexual abuse. Despite these practices, government officials fail to acknowledge that such abuse occurs. Founder of local organization PARSA, Marianne Gustavson currently works to bring awareness to this issue. Read more about her work and challenges here.


Campaign to End Institutionalization of the Disabled

Disability Rights International launched a worldwide campaign to end the institutionalization of the disabled, particularly children, in response to 18 years of research that indicates widespread abuse of the population across a multitude of countries. DRI has found that donors play a major role in perpetuating the institutionalization of children with disabilities. To learn more about this campaign, visit:

De-Institutionalization in Armenia

Unicef-Armenia-projectOver 5,000 children live in institutional care in Armenia with 80% of these children having atleast one living parent. According to an Armenian UNICEF communications officer, “children in these institutions are more of ‘social orphans,’ as they ended up [in orphanages] because their families were unable to meet their basic needs—such as nutrition, clothing, education, and proper healthcare.” While orphanages could provide material needs, children lack the emotional care that comes with parental care. This is apparent when children age out of care and are unable to have families of their own. In 2006, the Armenian government with the help of UNICEF adopted a plan to secure the rights of children by advocating for the closure of orphanages or converting them into support institutions. However, the major challenge to de-institutionalization is preventing the reasons that bring children to orphanages in the first place.

Read more about the de-institutionalization process in Armenia here.


Lumos is an organization dedicated to ending the institutionalization of orphan youth throughout the world and shifting to family based care, specifically in the areas of Moldova, Montenegro, Ukraine, Czech Republic, and Bulgaria. According to Lumos, there are 8 millions orphans living around the world in institutions, with 90% having atleast one relative still alive. Children are separated from their families because they are poor, disabled, or from an ethnic minority. Lumos advocates for individuals among these populations and works to establish community and family based care structures.

Learn more about this organization here:

Also, be sure to check out Lumos’ by the numbers, visual graphics of child abuse and neglect in orphanages:

The Tragedy of Orphanages

More than 8 million children live in orphanages worldwide. An estimated 90% of them are not true orphans. These children are sent to orphanages because a single parent is not adequately able to care for them, because of rampant poverty at home, or because they have a disability or special needs.

This is something that Mulheir’s organization, Lumos (interesting fact: it was founded by JK Rowling), hopes to change, because children who grow up in orphanages do not integrate seamlessly into larger society. As Mulheir shares, children raised in orphanages are 10 times more likely to be involved in prostitution, 40 times more likely to have a criminal record and — shockingly — 500 times more likely to commit suicide.

Mulheir has visited hundreds of orphanages in 18 countries, and notes a similar feedback loop at work in each — children have limited contact with caregivers and don’t get the stimulation they need for optimum development. They develop self-soothing behaviors — like self-harming — that get them labeled as disabled and keep them in institutions long term. This is not necessarily because orphanage personnel are bad people — it’s because they simply have too many kids to care for.

In her talk, Mulheir wonders if there is another way and calls for a radical resource redistribution. She points out that giving support — both financial and otherwise — to desperate parents and foster families would cost governments far less than maintaining large care institutions. With the saved funds, better services could be created for children who need them.

“Children are amazingly resilient,” says Mulheir. “We find that if we get them out of institutions and into loving families early on, they recover their developmental delays and go on to lead normal happy lives.

How bad can orphanages be? Listen to the vivid description in Mulheir’s talk.

This article was copied from TED Blogs:

Closing of Haitian Orphanages Poses a Conundrum

New York Times, Emily Brennan reports on the forced closure of orphanages in Haiti. After the earthquake in 2010, hundreds of children were institutionalized, despite having atleast one parent still alive. According to the Haitian government, 80% of children in orphanages have atleast one living biological parent. However, poor economic conditions and dire poverty force parents to turn their children over to institutions in hopes for a better future.Many believe that the orphanages can not only take of their child, but can also cover the cost of schooling and fees. In response to this problem, UNICEF is systematically working with inspectors unicefto close orphanages. In their inspection, they found widespread child abuse, such as food deprivation and trafficking, among new orphanages that have opened without proper licensure. While UNICEF hopes to shut down these orphanages, reuniting children to their families remains a challenging task since many still face financial difficulties amidst a slow economy.

View the full article here