Objective 2: Putting Family Care First

A child who has lost one or both parents usually continues to live within a family – typically with a surviving parent, sibling, or with other relatives. 

Most children living in institutions have been placed there due to extreme poverty or disability rather than parental death or abandonment.1,2 The number of residential institutions and the number of children living in them is unknown. Reportedly low estimates indicate that anywhere between 2 million and 8 million children are in institutional care.3 Institutionalization has been shown to lead to serious developmental, emotional, and social problems. Placing a child in protective family care results in better outcomes and is significantly less expensive than institutional care.4

Did you know?

  • The U.N. defines an “orphan” as a child who has lost one or both parents. According to this definition, there are 153 million orphans worldwide, of which 17.8 million have lost both parents.
  • More than 88 percent of “orphans” have a living parent.5
  • Reportedly low estimates indicate that anywhere between 2 million and 8 million children are in institutional care.4

Footnotes

  1. Save the Children UK. (2009). Keeping children out of harmful institutions: Why we should be investing in family-based care.
  2. Summary Report: Violence against Disabled Children – U.N. Secretary General’s Report on Violence against Children. Thematic Group on Violence against Disabled Children. (2005). UNICEF, New York. Tolfree, D. Roofs and roots: The care of separated children in the developing world (London, Save the Children UK, 1995) cited in International Save the Children Alliance’s paper A last resort: The growing concern about children in residential care (London, Save the Children UK, 2003), p. 15.
  3. UNICEF estimates that more than 2 million children are in institutional care around the world, but this is an outdated figure based on a limited country scan, and UNICEF frequently acknowledges it is an underestimate. UNICEF. (2009).
    Progress for children: A report card on child protection. Two other reports put the figure at 8 million, the latter even considers this to be an underestimate. See Pinheiro, P.S. (2006). Report of the independent expert for the United Nations study on violence against children; Save the Children UK. (2009). Keeping children out of harmful institutions: Why we should be investing in family-based care.
  4. Williamson, J. and Greenberg, A. (2010). Families, not orphanages. Better Care Network, New York.
  5. UNICEF, et al. (2010). Children and AIDS: Fifth stocktaking report.

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