Media CenterNew Video by CRS Shows the Reality Behind The Orphan Myth

Photo by Jim Stipe/CRS

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Tom Price
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]
(410) 951-7450


Poverty, not Bereavement, Is the Leading Cause of Why Children Are in Orphanages

BALTIMORE, MD, August 10, 2017 – A new dramatic video by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) released today tells the story of a mother, mired in poverty, making the heartbreaking decision to give up her daughter to an orphanage.

“This may be a drama but it is not fiction,” said CRS President Sean Callahan. “Every day, poverty and desperation lead mothers and fathers to do the unthinkable and surrender a loved son or daughter to an orphanage.”

Callahan said that though these institutions are called orphanages, few of the children are orphans.

“The world needs to wake up to the fact that 80-90 percent of children in orphanages have at least one living parent and that they would be far better off in family care,” he said. “It is poverty or disability – and parent’s deciding that they cannot cope in some way -- that is driving young children through the orphanage door. They do not want to be there. They want to be at home.”

CRS hopes the video will help drive this point home, particularly to well-meaning donors who think they are helping children by supporting orphanages.

“We are battling a false perception that is deeply ingrained in the public psyche,” continued Callahan. “If we are to break the orphan myth and return children to their families we need to tell the all too common story of how children, sadly and unwillingly, come to live in an orphanage. That’s why we made this important video.”

CRS, and its partners Lumos (founded by author J.K. Rowling), and Maestral International are committed to breaking that orphan myth and working country by country to replace orphanages with family care for the approximately 8 million children now in institutions across the globe.

 A proposal by CRS, Lumos and Maestral to end this institutionalization of children and turn orphanages into family support centers is a semi-finalist in the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s 100 & Change competition which will award a $100 million grant aimed at solving a critical problem of our time.

The two-minute 30 second video was researched in Haiti and filmed in Puerto Rico. The mother and daughter in the video are both actors who are also mother and daughter in real life.

Though donors in countries like the United States often support orphanages for the right reasons, unfortunately, too many of the institutions they support do little more than raise money, leaving actual childcare as an afterthought. These children have four times the risk of sexual abuse and six times of violence than those in family care.

The MacArthur Foundation recognized the importance of the issue in selecting the CRS, Lumos and Maestral proposal from nearly 2,000 entries as one of eight semi-finalists, recognizing both the need to reform the system, and that a global response is necessary and achievable.

You can watch the video here. “Please watch and share this video” said Callahan. “Perhaps if you feel a little of this mother and daughter’s sadness it can be a step toward ending this heartbreak in real life.”

Photos of the video and its production are available for download. Password is "photos".

Tags: Children, Youth

Poverty, not bereavement, is the leading cause of why children are in orphanages.More