Orphanage tourism endangers children

Peter Singer - New Europe

"Orphanage tourism turns children into cash-generating commodities subject to the usual economic laws of supply and demand," says this article from New Europe. The article presents UNICEF's data on the number of orphans around the world, including the difference between "orphan" and "double orphan," and notes that "estimates of the number of children living in institutional care (orphanages) range from 2.7-8 million, and of these, at least half, and perhaps as many as 90%, have a living parent, while some have both parents still alive."

The article explores how orphanages are often bolstered by foreign tourists and volunteers who send donations or pay to visit them. "This explains why 90% of the registered orphanages and children’s homes in Nepal are located in the districts that attract the most tourists," says the article. The article also explains how orphanages use recruiters to "travel to remote villages and encourage impoverished parents to send their children to the orphanage" with the promise of an education and a better life for the children.

Even for those orphanages "that do have children’s best interests at heart," says the article, "the institutional model of care is inherently harmful to all children – no matter how good the intentions of those running the institutions. More than 70 years of research shows significantly poorer outcomes for children who grow up in orphanages than for children who grow up in families, and the impact of institutionalisation on a child is lifelong and often intergenerational."

The article calls for the redirection of resources away from orphanages and towards supporting reintegration, prevention of family separation, and family-based care.