The orphanage industry: Flourishing when it should be dying

This article delves into the phenomenon of orphanage tourism and how it is tearing families apart.


Deinstitutionalisation of alternative care systems is a major challenge in many countries of Africa and Asia in particular, where care provision is essentially left in the hands of non-State actors and overwhelmingly takes the form of large residential facilities. Under those conditions, private providers have a virtual monopoly and are thus in a strong position to resist change. The bulk of the funding for these so-called ‘orphanages’ – where the great majority of children are not in fact orphans – usually comes from well-meaning charitable sources overseas. In recent years, ‘orphanage tourism’ has been developed as one highly profitable means of securing support. This article looks at how this phenomenon serves to tear families apart in order to ‘create orphans’, and argues that convincing foreign contributors to withdraw their support will be key to stopping the ‘orphanage industry’ from flourishing.

Nigel Cantwell, International Consultant on child protection policies,
and Emmanuelle Werner Gillioz, Director of Friends-International

Read paper

Published by Residential Forum

The Residential Forum is to promote the achievement of high standards of care and support for children and adults living in residential care and nursing homes, supported housing, residential schools and colleges, hospices and hostels. It contributes to improving the quality of service to the public. Members of the Forum are people of standing and experience drawn from the public, private and voluntary sectors, as well as some who can speak for service users and carers.

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