There are positive solutions
As many countries have shown, no child needs to live in an orphanage on a long-term or permanent basis. There are better solutions, all of which can provide the one thing children need and want most - a loving family.
Download an example of one country's framework for providing childcare Uganda's Alternative Care Framework pdf 200 KB.
Rather than placing and supporting children in orphanages, we must support solutions that:
1. Return or keep children with their parents.
Contrary to popular opinion, most children living in orphanages have a living parent. In many counties, as many as 80% do. They're abandoned in orphanages because their parents can't look after them. This could be because their parents are too poor, too ill, suffer discrimination from being too young, unmarried, having a partner of a different race, religion or country, or because they're a danger to their children. It can also be because they can't care for a child that is ill, disabled or is in trouble with the law.
According to best-practice guidelines, poverty should never be the reason to remove a child from their parents. Poverty should rather be seen as a trigger to provide the family with the support they need.
The answer to this huge problem is to support families to stay together by supporting them socially, economically and psychologically. This allows children to leave orphanages and return to their families, and it prevents families breaking down in the first place.
By tackling the main causes that lead to children being abandoned in orphanages, we can help children stay with their families. Supporting orphanages is simply delaying that process and indirectly causing great harm to children.
Supporting families to get back on their feet is not an easy task, but it is a long-term solution - and the best investment we can make for vulnerable children.
It is also a much cheaper solution, as many studies have shown.
2. Place children in the care of other family members, foster parents or adoptive parents.
In some cases, children simply cannot - and should not - return to their parents. For these children, the best solution is to have them live with members of their extended family (kinship care), with foster parents or with adoptive parents.
3. Place children in family-based environments where they can receive special care.
Where children are very ill or disabled and require on-going professional care on a daily basis, small family homes of no more than 8-10 children is another solution. While this is not always ideal, it is always better than life in an orphanage.
Alternatively, Uganda is at a critical point of change and you could support Alternative Care Uganda.
Hope and Homes for Children is a specialist organisation also working in this field of De-Institutionalisation.