I read this in the USA Today the other day and I think it is important to make a few comments. The article reports:
Children who live in orphanages fare as well or better than those in family homes, reports a Duke University study that tracked more than 3,000 children in five Asian and African countries.
The study, released today, is touted as one of the most comprehensive ever done on orphans. Orphaned and abandoned children ages 6-12 were evaluated over a three-year period in 83 institutions and 311 families in Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya and Tanzania. Those in institutions had significantly better health scores, lower prevalence of recent sickness and fewer emotional problems.
The study’s findings contrast with U.S. and international child-welfare policies that strongly favor family placement over institutional care for orphaned or abandoned children.
That last line is exactly the kind of sentiment that is dangerous. The research is not conclusive. It only says that orphanages might be better than certain in-country options like foster care and group homes – which may well be true. The dangerous aspect is that it gives the idea that orphanages are actually adequate or the best option for kids which is not true. In a day when international adoption numbers are on the decline and the number of orphans remains in the millions, we do not need encouragement to keep children institutionalized. We need to find ways to provide these children with permanency in a family, indigenouslly and internationally.
I highly recommend Dr. Elizabeth Bartholet’s paper ‘“International Adoption: The Human Rights Position,” for perspective on this issue.