We believe we should be working together to strengthen local child welfare systems in order to keep children with their families and in their local communities. As an alliance we call on organisations, churches and individuals to:
- Work with the Ugandan government and child protection experts to strengthen existing child protection systems and work within the existing policy and legal frameworks
- Support the growing number of organisations working to keep families together, resettle children back with their relatives, place children into family-based care and close child care institutions
- Encourage and support the implementation of child rights centred legislation and programmes
- Respect the individual needs and rights of all children and not use stigmatising and negative labels such as 'orphan'
- Re-evaluate well-meaning activities that may unintentionally destabilise children and create more demand for institutionalised care (e.g Mission Trips to orphanages)
- Follow an informed approach to healthy child care and child development
Uganda's children do not need any more Orphanages. They need strong families, communities and effective child protection systems.
A well-meaning desire to rescue Ugandan children has led to concern about the responses that often only touch the surface and do not change root causes or issues for the many children rather than the few.
Child Care Institutions / Orphanages have proven to have adverse effects on child development. They all too often have high levels of abuse and cause disruption to family and community connections. They have negative long term outcomes in terms of social exclusion; homelessness, crime, poverty and mental health. Additionally they are proven to be an ineffective use of resources and stifle the development of alternative care and prevention activities.
There are many push and pull factors which result in children living in child care institutions. These include family poverty, availability of 'free' services such as education in institutions, and incentivised 'recruitment' of children by institutions themselves. Whilst the death of one or parents can be a factor leading to institutionalisation, it is rarely the only factor.
Often, children are not formally abandoned but are temporarily placed in institutions by families in difficulty, or they are encouraged or forced to place them there due to lack of alternative services, discrimination or the poor knowledge and understanding of professionals involved. 'Orphan hood' is not the significant factor that is often publicised.
International adoption can remove focus and resources away from good work that is being done to strengthen families, resettle children or find in-country solutions. International Adoption is a very expensive intervention for individual children that distorts and corrupts local initiatives to place Ugandan children in Ugandan families. It also increasingly leads to high levels of corruption, manipulation and coercion in a weak and unregulated system.
The over emphasis and often misrepresentation of 'orphans' distracts attention, resources and programmes away from other vulnerabilities and what is really necessary to improve the wellbeing and livelihoods of Ugandan families and communities including vulnerable children.