Day 64: The Tragedy of Orphanages

There are one million children across Europe and Asia in orphanages.  
Many see this as a benign fact, viewing such institutions as a place of care for children who have lost both parents. Georgette Mulheir exposes a different, darker side to orphanages throughout the world.
In 1993 she was sent to Romania to examine Ceausescu’s ‘flagship’ centre for orphans. There, she found rows of children in cots, devoid of stimulation, amusing themselves by rocking silently. Each care staff member was responsible for anything from 10- 40 children. The head nurse proudly told her each child was silent because they were so well behaved.
A baby’s brain develops in response to stimuli. Everytime it learns to sit, squint or smile, new synaptic connections are formed. Parents encourage such new behaviours and the baby learns to replicate them. The link between parent and child is the model for future relationships.
When this model is abandoned, we realise the detrimental effect on the child. In many orphanages, lack of stimulation often leads to violent activity and self harm. Many children are classed as disabled and put into a home. Many never leave. In Moldova young women who grew up in orphanages are ten times more likely to be trafficked than their peers. In a Russian study, 10% of released young adults had a criminal record and the same number had taken their own lives.
One of the starkest facts about the industry is that 95% of children have a living parent. There are those who have a disability and are sent away to a residential unit, or the child whose single mother can’t afford the time or money to look after them. In the absence of social supports there is often little option for parents.
20 years ago there were over 200,000 children in Romanian orphanages; today there are less than 10,000. Across Europe there is a shift towards community based services for disadvantaged children.
For those who have traditionally given money and gifts to orphanages, now is the time to support family programs instead. Together this is one form of child abuse we can eradicate in our lifetimes.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s