Why Cambodian orphanages house so many children whose parents are still alive

Fred de Sam Lazaro - PBS Newshour

This video segment from the PBS Newshour shines a light on efforts underway in Cambodia to reintegrate children from orphanages back into their families or into family-based care. It features the work of Cambodian Children's Trust (CCT) to reintegrate children in Battambang Province, including interviews with a mother and child who have been reunited thanks to CCT's efforts.

The video also explains the connection between tourism and the orphanage industry in Cambodia. "There may be fewer orphans, but orphanages have also become a growth industry," says the video. "There were about 150 in 2005. Today, there are more than 400, housing more than 16,000 children. Often, they are put on display, dancing for tourists who are then coaxed to leave a donation."

"Then there's voluntourism, a thriving industry in which college or gap year students pay agencies to place them in orphanages. Each year, tens of thousands of young Australians, Europeans and North Americans come to Cambodia to volunteer. They will spend a few days, sometimes weeks in orphanages, mostly teaching English to the children. Child development experts say not only does this not help the children; it actually harms them."

Furthermore, "It's about 10 to 15 times cheaper to support a child living with their family, rather than to bring them into an institution," says Jedtha Pon, co-founder of CCT in the video.