Projects Abroad Commits to Future Without Orphanages

Residential care for children, usually in orphanages or children's homes, is still very common in many developing countries, but this is not the best way to care for vulnerable children.

Projects Abroad Commits to Future Without Orphanages

The former orphanage at Burlington College

TORONTO – November 8, 2017 – Projects Abroad has committed to shifting all its child care-focused volunteer work from orphanages, and other residential care facilities, to community-based child care by the end of 2017.

Residential care for children, usually in orphanages or children's homes, is still very common in many developing countries, but this is not the best way to care for vulnerable children. With more than 8 million children in residential care globally, investment in family and community-based care solutions for children is crucial. Up to 80% of children living in residential care have one or more living parents who, with support, would be willing and able to care for them.

For many years, Projects Abroad has worked closely with selected residential care facilities to provide additional support for children placed there. Our volunteers and staff have made amazing contributions to improving the lives of these children. However, we have also always believed that institutional care should be the absolute last resort for any child, and have always supported local partners who aim to reduce the number of children in residential care.

Projects Abroad recognizes the concerns raised about the orphanage industry. We have always kept abreast of the new research in this area, and over the last number of years, we've seen a growing amount associating orphanage care with child trafficking and exploitation. Projects Abroad has never, and will never, knowingly place children at risk through our programs.

In the future, we aim to focus on providing support exclusively to community-based child care programs. In some locations, such as Cambodia, we have worked with such partners for years, and have first-hand knowledge of how successful these initiatives can be in keeping children in families where they can thrive and grow up to be happy, healthy members of their community.

Greg Thomson, Projects Abroad CEO, sees this as key to helping build a better future for children currently in residential care. "In 2016, the Projects Abroad leadership team embarked on a review and assessment of where our volunteers make the most sustainable and significant impact, especially when working with children. A recurring theme from this process was that community-based care for children is where we should be focusing the efforts of our volunteers."

For the past two years, Projects Abroad has tracked the impact its volunteers have made on early childhood development in both settings: community-based child care and residential child care. Community-based child care allows for closer collaboration with other volunteer programs Projects Abroad runs in each country, such as education and health care, providing an unrivalled opportunity for volunteers to help address community needs as a whole, and creating a sustainable future for children.

"The reach of our volunteer projects is stronger in community care, with greater potential for real lasting contribution. Community-based care for children ensures that parents can work while their children are cared for and engaged in targeted interventions for early childhood development, including literacy, numeracy, English, and hygiene," states Jenny Puyo, Head of Program Development at Projects Abroad.

With this in mind, Projects Abroad will no longer place volunteers in residential care institutions from the end of 2017, instead placing volunteers at community-based care projects. Projects Abroad recognizes that this process must be undertaken ethically to ensure children are not inadvertently harmed. Projects Abroad has joined with ReThink Orphanages to ensure we place the best interests of children at the forefront of our programming. This partnership will ensure we are collaborating with others in the volunteering and development sectors to raise awareness of this issue and ensure children are not unnecessarily separated from their families and placed in an orphanage.

Projects Abroad will be working closely with our partners in each country to provide resources, support, and advice on shifting towards family-based care models for children. We will connect partners directly with organizations that reintegrate children into families. As part of our commitment to withdrawing from residential care institutions ethically, Projects Abroad will continue to offer skilled volunteer placements, such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy projects, in specialized care facilities for children. These placements will focus on building the capacity of local staff to provide therapeutic care to children with specialized needs, and will contribute to ensuring that, in the long-term, these children too can grow up in families, not institutions. Projects Abroad will withdraw from these specialized care placements in a phased approach, working closely with our technical advisors and project partners to ensure this is done ethically and sustainably.