EIGHT million children around the world languish ininstitutions and so-called orphanages, though the vastmajority are not in fact orphans but have at least oneliving parent. Why orphanages are full of non-orphansis a question that Lumos continues to ask, and keyanswers – poverty, confict, disability and lack of access toservices that help keep children in families – come backtime and again. There is compelling scientifc evidenceto show that institutional care – separating children fromloving engagement by parents and families – harms achild’s physical, intellectual and emotional development.Research also makes clear that those raised in institutionalcare sufer poor life and health prospects. Societies andcommunities also sufer the social and economic fall-outof an out-dated ‘care’ system that harms the very childrenit is supposed to protect.
The evidence-based argument has been widely acceptedin the European region, where Lumos has worked overthe last decade to tackle a legacy of State-providedinstitutions, in a culture where separating children fromparents became the standard response to families incrisis. We talk of a ‘tipping point’ in Europe becausemost countries have some form of commitment todeinstitutionalisation (DI).
At Lumos, we now believe the evidence is so clear thatwe can take our DI mission onto the global stage – tochallenge the decades-old notion that orphanages are‘good’ or at least ‘necessary’ for children in adversity.They are not and we now know enough about the harmto see that there is a better way. This will be a challengefor many generous people who have supported, or evenworked in, orphanages, and believe they are safe, wellequipped havens for children in a threatening world. Weare confdent in arguing that the solution is not prettymurals, comfer beds, or teddy bears. The solution is noinstitutions or orphanages.
In 2014 Lumos established a platform – with the people,skills, expertise and passion – to enable us to startto make that argument around the world in pursuitof our ambitious but achievable goal of ending theinstitutionalisation of children worldwide by 2050.
It was at such an infuential Lumos policy event in 2014 –In Our Lifetime, focusing on the role of global aid fundingto bring closer the end of institutions and orphanages –that I met Dumitriţa from Moldova, who had lived in aninstitution for fve years. She is one of the 14,280 childrenwho have been reunited with her family thanks to thework of Lumos.
Listening to her speak about her experiences wasprofoundly moving. It was also a powerful message topolicy makers who heard her that change is not onlypossible, it is imperative. Her personal story encapsulatesthe aspirations of the millions of children we work tohelp; giving them a voice is a fundamental part of ourmission. Our aim is that, in their lifetimes, all children willenjoy a family life, which they need and deserve. 2014was the year in which I became Life President of Lumos,a commitment I was proud to make and in taking up thisnew role I handed over the baton of responsibility forchairing the Board of Trustees of Lumos to Neil Blair. I didso with confdence in the Trustees, in our indefatigableCEO Georgette Mulheir, and in the talented staf at Lumos,and in the knowledge that Lumos enjoys the invaluable,continuing support of many partners and generous donors.
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