May 23, 2023 –Tuesday, 16:00-17.30

Workshops 2.1

Topic: Threats to Human Rights in Relation to the Delivery of Social Services

Presenter: Valerie Philpott

An estimated 5.4 million children live in institutions worldwide, primarily because of poverty, lack of access to health and education services, and discrimination. This is despite the fact that more than 80% of children living in orphanages have at least one living parent. They also have extended family members and communities that could care for them, given the right support. Hence, the institutionalisation of children is not a necessity, it is a choice and there are cost-effective alternatives that allow children to live in a protective family environment. Further to this, reports highlight that the regular turnover of volunteers and visitors to orphanages is harmful to children’s development and wellbeing and increases their exposure to abuse and exploitation. Orphanage volunteering, visiting and overseas donations can also sustain the ‘orphanage industry’ with institutions being set up to meet the demand from well-meaning travellers and donors.

This has led to increasing instances of children being trafficked to populate profit making institutions. There is now a growing global movement working to keep families together and to gradually close down orphanages, replacing them with family support services and alternatives such as kinship and foster care where appropriate. This movement includes UN bodies and governments, NGO’s, child protection specialists and care experts with lived experience. This presentation will discuss the landscape of orphanage care and volunteering, with an emphasis on care reform and the ways in which this is occurring, along with an example of an Irish advocacy campaign working to change how children are cared for and to end the practice of orphanage volunteering.