Why we need to end the era of orphanages

Other | Tuesday 20th March 2018 | Patience

Tara Winkler reminds us of the importance of family-based care over putting a child in an institution.

In 2006 Winkler volunteered in Cambodia where she was moved by the suffering of the children she met at an orphanage. Motivated to action, she set up her own orphanage.

However, she started to uncover some strange things. Most of the children at her orphanage were not actually orphans. They had parents and other living relatives. Winkler soon found that it's not just in Cambodia that this happens, this is an international problem. Winkler discovered the reason for this was unknowingly tourists, volunteers & donors that wanted to help were " unwittingly fueling an industry that exploits children and tears families apart."

She goes on to speculate that it is no coincidence that most orphanages are found in areas where tourists can most easily be lured. The unfortunate truth is that the more money that floods in the more these kind of institutions are open and the more children are removed from their families. Institutionalising children is not the answer, Winkler argues. Young adults raised in institutions are 10 times more likely to become sex workers, 40 times more likely to have a criminal record  and "500 times more likely to take their own lives."

To counter this Winkler now runs the Cambodian Children's Trust which focuses on family-based care. It stops vulnerable families from being separated in the first place and if a child can't live with their biological family, the organisation puts them in foster care.

Enforcing this kind of care for children is vital, as Winkler puts it in her own words "if you institutionalize large numbers of children, it will affect not only this generation but also the generations to come."

Let's be part of the movement and raise awareness for family-based care.