ChildFund Australia, as a member of the ReThink Orphanages network, is calling on Australians to think twice about donating to overseas orphanages, and instead consider funding those programs which enable children to grow up in family environments.
Currently, up to eight million children live in orphanages or residential care institutions around the world. This is despite the fact that around 80 per cent of these children have parents or extended family members that could care for them if given the appropriate levels of support.
ChildFund Australias Child Protection Advisor, Mark Kavenagh, says: In many countries where ChildFund Australia works, the institutionalisation of children is actually being driven by well-meaning but uninformed donors and volunteers.
When residential care is used as a solution to education, poverty and disability-based challenges, it incentivises family separation for parents who desire to give their children the best opportunities. Its essential that we find solutions to these challenges that allow children to grow up in their families and communities.
ReThink Orphanages has the support of Senator Linda Reynolds, who recently took part in an MP Learning Visit to Cambodia. She has warned Australians seeking to help Cambodian orphanages to proceed with caution, and ensure they are not unwittingly taking part in orphanage tourism.
She said: In Australia we know the negative physical and mental impacts of children in residential care we should not be supporting these institutions overseas when community-based options are available.
ReThink Orphanages is working alongside Senator Reynolds and other key stakeholders from government, aid and development, education and tourism to advocate for change, and encourage Australians to support vulnerable children in ways that prevent more children being pushed into residential care.
Mark adds: Research shows that living in an institutional environment has a negative impact on a childs cognitive, social and emotional development. That is why ChildFunds work is focused on supporting children within the context of their parents, extended relatives and local community. We believe it is important that, wherever possible, we uphold a childs right to grow up within a family.