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Harry Potter and the Orphanage

November 11, 2014 permalink

JK Rowling
JK Rowling

Lumos is an organization founded by Harry Potter author JK Rowling. From its website:

8 million children worldwide are living in institutions because they are poor, disabled or from an ethnic minority. This is a serious problem, on a massive scale, but there is a solution. Lumos works in partnership with governments, professionals and carers, communities, families and children, to transform outdated systems that drive families apart. Together with our partners we replace institutions with community based services that provide children with access to health, education and social care tailored to their individual needs. This supports families to provide the loving care their children need to develop to their full potential and build a positive future for themselves.

Source: About Lumos

The best introduction to Lumos is the TED talk by CEO Georgette Mulheir.

Their research paper The Global Picture of Children in Institutions, or local copy (pdf), gives this informative graphic:

children in orphanages
click for more resolution

Of the 8 million children in orphanages over 90 percent have a living parent. In the three poorer European countries listed, the percentages are 98, 99 and 99 percent. For the more prosperous countries no figures are provided. Lumos naively suggests the foster care system of Australia as a more humane alternative.

The Lumos page titled The Problem has many essays on orphanages. One enclosed below reports on the scam of faux-orphanage operators borrowing children from real orphanages when auditors arrive.



Borrowing orphans to hide corruption

Georgette Mulheir's blog:

I read a fascinating article in The Guardian that brings home much of what is wrong with systems of institutionalising children: “Officials try to borrow orphans to hide failings” was a tale of corruption in local government in China, where officials were receiving money to run an ‘orphanage’, but were not actually looking after any children.  When the service was to be inspected, they asked a local Buddhist temple to lend them the orphans in their care.

This may seem a bizarre and even laughable tale, but it highlights the economic drivers behind so-called ‘orphanages’. In many of the countries I have worked in, I have come across tales of manipulated data about children in institutions. Usually, institutions are funded according to the numbers of children resident, so managers or local officials will artificially inflate the numbers, inventing names, or providing incentives to local people officially to register their children as living in the institutions. In some countries, children in institutions receive free education. Poor families register their children as resident, in order to avoid paying for their education and the institution manager can claim funding for children who are not living there.

When efforts are made to begin reducing the numbers of children in care, managers who see their budgets reducing actively seek children to live in their institutions – persuading poor families to give up their children.

Institutionalisation harms the health and development of children and poverty should never be a reason for separating children from their families. But until such time as systems of care are established on the basis of meeting the needs and respecting the rights of individual children, economic drivers will commodify the care of children, exposing them harm, abuse and reduced life chances.

In many of the countries I have worked in, I have come across tales of manipulated data about children in institutions

Source: Lumos

Lumos' most recent video is Behind the Walls or local copy (mp4)

Throughout the Lumos material, it is apparent that more prosperous countries suffer from the same problems. For example, in Canada almost all children in out-of-home care have a living parent. And the US and Canada keep about one percent of children in out-of-home care, a higher proportion than the 8 million in orphanages worldwide.