The terrible death of 15 children in the orphanage of L’Eglise de Comprehension de la bible, in Fermathe Haiti brings into sharp focus the terrible conditions endured by children trapped in orphanages. This unlicensed orphanage was run by a US church foundation and conditions there were described as truly neglected.
This is an example of one of many unauthorised and unregulated orphanages in Haiti that house over 30,000 children in terrible conditions. Over 80 years of research clearly demonstrates the devastating and stunting effect on children’s physical and mental development when they are deprived of love in an orphanage. Haiti is still failing to protect its vulnerable children. The archaic system that separates children from their families remains in place due to the direct funding of generous overseas donors.
US faith-based donors represent the largest funder of orphanages in Haiti, some 90%. Lumos research estimated that more than $100 million are donated annually to just over one-third of Haitian orphanages, predominantly from North American, Christian funders.
In 2017, Lumos released a report calling out the problem, and urging US donors to promote an understanding that children should be in families, not orphanages. It also called for funds to be better spent on preventing the separation of children from their families.
Funding so-called orphanages perpetuates the problem and prevents the need for much needed reform of care systems and family support.
Lumos has also been urging the Government of Haiti to strengthen the child protection system and judicial approaches to trafficking in children, including: develop an independent inspection system; develop a system for tracking children in care; increase the number of social workers and improve their training; prioritise children trafficked in orphanages within the Anti-Trafficking Strategy.
Lumos are experts in helping governments to reform care systems, close down orphanages and return children to their families. It is estimated 80% of children in orphanages have at least one living parent, and almost all have other family members. Poverty, lack of access to basic services, and the desire to provide an education drive parents and caregivers to place their children in orphanages. With adequate support, many children could return to family – and community – based care, and at-risk families could be strengthened to prevent separation in the first instance.
We have already proved the success of our programmes with partners, by successful changing outdated systems and returning children to family environments in many countries, including Moldova and Bulgaria.
Since its founding by J.K. Rowling in 2005, Lumos has continued to shine a light on the plight of children living forgotten in orphanages and institutions around the world, offering support, education and help in changing the systems that prevent families staying together.
We continue to call on the Haitian government and others to work together to outlaw such institutions and reform systems so that at-risk families can receive the support that they need to enable them to stay together and for children to shine.
For Lumos media queries, contact David Knights on David.Knights@wearelumos.org or call +44 (0)7584 529044.
For Lumos media enquiries in Haiti, contact Vantz.Brutus@wearelumos.org or call +509 4473 0069