Changing the Way We Care

Why this Matters

Changing The Way We Care Receives $15 Million as Finalist in MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change Competition.

See the press release here. Catholic Relief Services, Lumos and Maestral International, thanks the MacArthur Foundation for making our initiative, Changing the Way We Care a finalist in the 100&Change competition. For many years, we have been fighting for the rights of children in orphanages. 100&Change gave us the unique opportunity to shine a spotlight on the orphanage industry and draw attention to the needs of children who are too often invisible to the world.   We thank the MacArthur Board of Directors for its commitment to our vision. With their generous $15 million award, we can do more than just dream. We are already on our way to building a louder global movement that will find safe and nurturing families for every child in an orphanage. This is only the beginning.


“Do I keep a child I cannot afford to feed and educate?” For millions of parents mired in poverty this wrenching decision is theirs. These families, our communities and our world deserve better.

See why we must change the way we care.

New Opinion Poll Shows Americans in the Dark about Orphanages;

Accompanying Research Review Underlines the Damaging Effects Of Orphanages

A new poll and research review shows a high level of misinformation about an industry receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in donations every year: orphanages. With the best of intentions, many Americans are sustaining orphanages that research clearly shows can lower children’s IQs, stunt their growth and increase child abuse.


The poll was commissioned by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to assess public understanding of orphans and orphanages in developing countries and showed widespread misunderstanding, perpetuating the spread of the global ‘orphan industry.’ The United States eliminated orphanages some 50 years ago in favor of family care, but the poll shows 87% of those surveyed believe they still exist here. While poverty is the No. 1 reason that children around the world end up in orphanages, only 26% of respondents believed this to be the case. Instead, nearly half (46%) said the top reason that children are in orphanages is the loss of a parent, and two in three (68%) rank the loss of a parent among the top two most common reasons. The reality is 80-90% of children in orphanages have at least one living parent. American Perceptions of Orphans and Orphanages: An Opinion Survey.

Decades of research show the damaging effects of orphanages on children, summarized in a new report titled The State of Residential Care for Children and Implications for Human Development. It shows the negative effect on children’s health and development that often lasts way into adulthood. Orphanage care can result in:

  • Lower IQs, poor learning skills and stunted physical growth;
  • The loss of one month of physical growth for every two to three months spent in an orphanage;
  • A higher prevalence of mood and attachment disorders;
  • And are at much greater risk of abuse and neglect.

The State of Residential Care for Children and Implications for Human Development: Research Brief.
The State of Residential Care for Children and Implications for Human Development Research Review.

Let’s start by changing the conversation.

An estimated 8 million children around the world live in orphanages. From newborns to teenagers, they are growing up without the love and attention they need to thrive. While some of the better orphanages meet basic needs like food and clothing, these facilities can’t offer children the nurturing that only a family can.

Ironically, a staggering 80-90% of children in orphanages – almost all of them -- have at least one living parent.

Changing The Way We CareSM is committed to keeping children in families. Research tells us that, even in the best orphanages, children lag behind developmentally. In the worst places, we uncover abuse, neglect and human trafficking.

All children deserve to be with their families. Together, we’re making that a reality.

Our approach is two-pronged. We keep children from entering orphanages in the first place. But we also work for those already living in these institutions. Ideally, we reintegrate them with their families or place them in healthy family settings – relatives, foster care, or adoption.

Orphanages. We’re not shutting doors. We’re opening new possibilities.

Research shows that institutionalized care:

  1. Negatively affects a child’s physical, intellectual, and psychosocial development
  2. Makes children more susceptible to violence, abuse, and exploitation
  3. Leaves them ill-prepared for life once they “age out” of the system
  4. Results in unemployment, exploitation, and homelessness, with long-term costs to society

Let’s put families first.

Donors who support orphanages clearly want to help children in need. We want to redirect their invaluable philanthropy toward keeping children in families instead of orphanages.

  1. Funding will target vulnerable parents grappling with poverty, illness or the challenge of raising children with disabilities.
  2. Different levels and types of support will help parents properly care for their children.
  3. We will transform the institutions now known as orphanages into dynamic, community-based centers for care and family support.
  4. We will work directly with the orphanage staffs, giving them training and resources to reunite families.
  5. A strategy of “gatekeeping” will keep children from entering orphanage care in the first place. Throughout this process, we will engage donors to help them better understand the issues surrounding orphanages and encourage them to redirect their donations to support children in families instead of facilities.

CRS PRESIDENT AND CEO SEAN CALLAHAN DESCRIBES OUR PROPOSAL

80% to 90% of children living in orphanages have a living parent.