Movement to End Orphanages Garners Mixed Views on Implementation

The anti-orphanage movement, sometimes known as de-institutionalization, is well underway and gaining momentum. Worldwide, faith leaders are encouraging the placement of kids from orphanages into family settings, ie foster care. Out of the 2.7 million children currently in orphanages worldwide, UNICEF reports 80-90% of them have at least one living parent. The goal is to reunite those families when possible and then move to foster care and/or adoption for the rest.

Matthew Stephens, senior child protection advisor at World Vision U.S. says, “We believe that an institution, like an orphanage, is no substitute for the care and affection that can be provided by a family.” Other leaders are taking notice of the changes. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention says, “I’m not seeing enough effort globally when it comes to helping children out of orphanages.” Moore has two children who were adopted from a Russian orphanage, so he is well aware of what the children are being deprived of in that environment.

Many countries, including Eastern European countries and China, are making drastic moves to put an end to government-run orphanages. Russia is down from over 100,000 orphanages to 7,000. They hope to rid the country of orphanages by 2023.

Jed Medefind, president of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, agrees with the movement but cautions against taking actions too quickly. According to Medefind, “When the desire to close orphanages runs ahead of capacity of families to receive children, then children are placed in dangerous situations. When you wade close to the world of the most broken situations it will always be painfully complex and the solutions will always be incomplete at best.”

One of the issues driving the movement is the enormous cost required to run such facilities. Hopefully the welfare of the children is paramount to saving money.