Transitions Initiative Cambodia (March 2011)

IOFA determined last summer that youth still in orphanage care in and around Phnom Penh, Cambodia presented “risk factors” that suggested they would be vulnerable to exploitation, violence, drug use, and other dangerous trajectories upon their exit from care. This March, we returned to Cambodia to find youth and young adults who had already left orphanage care. We aimed to learn about their experiences and begin to understand general trajectories for care leavers, to determine whether they are indeed vulnerable, and if so, what kinds of services might support them.

Based on our research with 27 care leavers, which included focus groups, interviews, home visits, and an analysis that includes a comprehensive literature review, IOFA has published its latest findings: Research Report: Transitions Initiative Cambodia (March 2011). 

The literature review includes findings which highlight the dangers of orphanage tourism and the effects of institutionalization. Main points from the fieldwork include reports from the youth of labor trafficking and exploitation, physical abuse within the orphanage, homelessness, extreme poverty, and severe psychological distress. The report further highlights the relatively high education of care leavers in Cambodia, which does not appear to help care leavers achieve financial stability. We conclude the following:

“Based on this group, it does not appear that families are misguided in believing that their children would receive an education while in orphanage care; however, it does appear that education alone within the context of institutionalization is insufficient. Their institutionalization – a childhood of emotional neglect, social isolation, disorganized attachments, and repeated traumas – has negated the value of the education for which they were placed in orphanage care.”

The report outlines our upcoming project, the Transitions Initiative, details of which can be found on our website. Discussion of trends identified in the field work can be found on our blog,
For a copy of the full report, please contact IOFA at (Susan Rosas) or (Shelby French).


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