Most Orphans Are Not Orphans

An estimated 8 million children worldwide live in orphanages or residential institutions but 80% of these children are not orphans. We encourage supporting charities like Cambodian Children’s Trust (CCT) and ReThink Orphanages who work towards keeping families together.

Children who grow up in orphanages experience attachment disorders, developmental delays, and have difficulty forming relationships in adulthood. The effects of institutionalisation can last a lifetime and even impact upon following generations.

Unfortunately, the institutionalisation of children is in many cases driven by the well-meaning but uninformed support of foreign donors, orphanage voluntourism, and the supply chain of people, money and resources that drive the orphanage industry.

In destinations where there are limited economic opportunities for the local people, village families are approached with financial offers for their children to be taken to be well looked after and to receive an education. These children are then placed in orphanages to perform for well-intentioned tourists who in turn provide the institution with financial support in the belief that they are making a real contribution.

The Ugly Truth

The ugly truth is that this is a circular business model where supply needs to meet demand – if there are more and more tourists wanting to visit orphanages, then more and more orphans are needed. So more “orphans” are sought from remote villages by unscrupulous business owners to meet this demand. The truth gets uglier in that the children in the orphanages are predominantly not well-taken care of and are often subject to physical and mental abuse. This “business” has become known as orphanage trafficking and in November 2018, Australia became the first country to recognise it as a type of modern day slavery and included penalties and punishments in the Modern Slavery Act.

For a first-hand and very comprehensive look at this issue, we urge you to take the time to watch “Why we need to end the era of orphanages”, by Tara Winkler.

What you can do

If Australian travellers redirect their support away from volunteering or donating to overseas orphanage institutions, and instead support organisations who are working to keep children in families, we can ensure that vulnerable children have what all children need and deserve – a family. At FCTG we encourage all of our customers to inform themselves about the orphanage industry and help support the efforts of organisations like Cambodian Children’s Trust and ReThink Orphanages* to find solutions to ensure that all children can achieve their right to grow up in a family.

*ReThink Orphanages provides advice and information to government, business, donors, and non-profits on policy, child focused giving, transitioning from residential to community based care, responsible tourism, child rights focused business models, and technical advice.