Malawi family

Changing the Way We Care

Photo by Sara Fajardo for CRS

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Though they are usually called orphanages, few of the children inside them are orphans. Around the world, 80 to 90% of the 8 million children living in institutions have a living parent. Most are there because their family cannot afford to care for them, or because a family is unable to give a child with a disability the necessary support.

The research is overwhelming: Time spent in an institution delays children’s mental, emotional and physical growth. That’s true of even the best of these institutions. The worst of them are rife with neglect and abuse. We know there is a better way—family care is always superior to an institution. The United States eliminated orphanages decades ago. We think the rest of the world should, too.

That’s why we are partnering with Lumos and Maestral International in the Changing the Way We Care campaign. With support from the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change contest, and other generous donors, this campaign will change attitudes. Funding that now goes to orphanages—from well-meaning men and women, from faith-based groups, from governments—will instead help families stay together.

Existing orphanages will be turned into family support centers. It’s a big challenge, because the “orphanage industry” is entrenched in many countries. But CRS is taking it on—because the futures of millions of children are at risk unless we change the way we care.