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Project September 13, 2018

The Tragedy of the "Good" Orphanage


Image by Shawn Talbot /
Image by Shawn Talbot /

True orphans are rare. In orphanages around the world, 80 to 90 percent of children have at least one living parent, who gave up the child due to poverty, or due to neglect or abuse — often related to poverty.

In the U.S., Canada, or the U.K., parents receive financial, social, and family services to help them keep their child. If those don't work out, the child goes to a foster family.

Wealthy countries abolished orphanages long ago, because of the importance of growing up in a family. For all the flaws of the foster care system, it is far better than a system of institutions.

Yet wealthy countries fund orphanages in poor countries with aid dollars, well-meaning private (often church-based) donations, and voluntourism. That aid not only supports orphanages, it is often their reason to exist. Donors and volunteers from rich countries sustain a system that harms children and blocks efforts to set up foster care and other services that rich countries employ.


navy halftone illustration of a female doctor with her arms crossed


Health Inequities

Health Inequities