Around the world, activists work tirelessly to get children out of orphanages. But while strides are being made in some countries, others are falling short and continue to maintain facilities that lack decent care and, well-rounded development opportunities.
In Romania, where “images of hollow-eyed children lying in row upon row of dilapidated cribs,” emerged in 1989, there were deplorable conditions, including accounts of thousands of children beaten and starved in overcrowded, underfunded facilities, according to the Associated Press.
Today, Romania’s orphanages have around 7,000 wards, down from 100,000, and the country hopes to close all old-style establishments by 2023. Those children who are not reunited with their families or placed in foster homes are to be placed in “cheerful family-style houses run by well-trained staff,” the AP reports.
Other countries are making progress, too, including Bulgaria and the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Moldova. China has also improved its systems and is able to adequately care for three-quarters of its orphans and abandoned children, reportedly. Meanwhile, Rwanda may soon become the first African country to eliminate the need for orphanages.
There remain places that are not making great progress in this area, however, including India, Nepal and Haiti, where poorly regulated orphanages or unscrupulous operators take advantage of the children the country’s impoverished citizens.
Aid groups are hopeful for the future of orphans around the world, as many groups think the current wave of progress can be sustained.
“We are almost at the brink of achieving a global movement — putting orphanages back into history books,” said Dr. Delia Pop, the Romanian director of global advocacy at the Britain-based Hope and Homes for Children
Hope and Homes for Children seeks to dismantle orphanages in 30 countries and hopes to reunite children with at least one parent.
“Most often, it’s poverty driving these families apart,” said Shannon Senefeld of Catholic Relief Services. “Parents believe … their child will be given a better way of life if they live in an orphanage.”
The AP’s extensive report on the effort to reform orphanages includes updates on operations in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.
In the Americas, most countries have turned to foster based systems, excluding Haiti, where extreme poverty has led to an abundance of homes for orphaned and abandoned children. Haiti’s main social services agency says there are around 35,000 children in 814 homes.
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