Indonesia’s Orphanage Trade: Islamic Philanthropy’s Good Intentions, Some Not So Good Outcomes

Helen McLaren and Nismah Qonita - Religions

Abstract: In 2011, Indonesia commenced an orphanage deinstitutionalization strategy known as the paradigm change in child protection. The strategy responded to human rights protocols emphasizing institutional care of children as a last resort. Orphanage based social workers were trained by the Ministry of Social Affairs (MOSA) to implement the paradigm change, increase parenting capacity and strengthen local supports to enable children’s reunification with their families. The paradigm change intended to reduce children coming into institutional care; however, we found a persistent growth of non-orphaned children being recruited to orphanages since 2011 and more orphanages being built to accommodate them. Islamic philanthropic activities were identified as supporting and contributing growth to the orphanage trade. Despite the paradigm change, social workers were financially incentivization to recruit children to orphanages. There were no similar incentives to deinstitutionalize them. This paper uses selective quotes from the larger study, of social workers interviewed, to assist with theorizing the high potential of Islamic philanthropy in supporting Indonesia’s growing orphan trade. We propose that philanthropy, including where there are good faith and good intentions, may be contributing to some not so good outcomes, including trafficking and modern-day slavery.