Here’s an astonishing statistic: only 6 percent of the children in Kyrgyzstan’s orphanages are true orphans. How can that be? The majority are there because of poverty.
It’s a story I see around the world and it never ceases to make me cringe. What’s more, the situation is not unique to Kyrgyzstan it is only now being spotlighted there, as poverty erodes what little social safety nets there were and children are the first to suffer.
Child Rights Information Network reports that in Kyrgyzstan, NGOs and policy analysts have criticized the government for funding children’s homes (often referred to as orphanages) over investing in low-income households. Aiding low-income families would help keep children at home with their families, but currently the government allocates 6,000 to 11,000 soms ($126-$231) to children’s homes per month, per child. In striking contrast, low-income parents—who often migrate abroad for seasonal work to make ends meet—only receive 500 soms ($10) per month, per child. Critics of the system say it makes parents “compete” with state-run institutions, so they are eventually forced to place their children in outside care. Shockingly, of the 11,000 children living in Kyrgyzstan’s 117 “orphanages”, approximately 10,300 actually have at least one living parent!
What is the main driver for parents placing their children in care outside the family? Poverty, plain and simple.
With government doing little to create viable jobs, unemployed parents are not able to afford their children and are forced to migrate for work—while the government pays orphanage 12 to 23 times as much to care for a child as parents receive! This just doesn’t make sense. Add to this situation well-intended foreigners who want to “help orphans” and send even more funds to support these homes, and you have a global problem, where orphanages are the only viable way for parents ensure that their child will receive food and, typically, an education.
The issue is not new, but it does not seem to be getting much better. I’ve written about this before; see The Myth of Orphans & Orphanages.
When you choose to help, do your research. Who will you help? How will it help them? How long will this help make a difference? Is this type of help what the child needs most? HHI focuses on building family and social cohesion, all while bettering child health, development, nutrition and education—wherever the children are! The secret ingredient? There are two, actually. One is providing useful/meaningful information to caregivers—things that they can do, regardless of their resources, to better a child’s life. The second ingredient is LOVE—once awakened, it is a lasting, sustainable resource that builds health, relationships and community.
When you give to help better the lives of others, we ask that you give LOVE!
Read the whole story from Kyrgyzstan: Kyrgyzstan: Labor Migrants Leave Behind “Social Orphans”
Another similar story is being shared regarding Haiti, where an estimated 80% of children in orphanages have living parents and most children are placed in orphanages due to “dire poverty”. Read the New York Times article, Campaign in Haiti to Close Orphanages Where Many Are Not Orphans at All