Social Orphans: Where are they? Who are they?

In a recent article, I advocated the adoption of a protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child that would shift the emphasis from the pros and cons of international adoption to the obligation of national governments to engage in an honest accounting of children living without family care.  See http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1136879.  For all the debate that goes on around intercountry adoption, very little of it seems to be rigorously fact based.

It is not my objective to add one more blog about the rightness of international adoption–but rather to encourage a pooling of empirical information about what is actually happening to the world’s many children who live out of family care. There is good reason to think that governments are not truthful about the life circumstances of these children. What we know about them tends to be anecdotal.

I have long believed that what will drive good policy will be light shining into places where the world’s social orphans actually live–institutions of all kinds–including foster homes–and the streets.

A wealth of anecdotal evidence indicates that in this socially and politically contenious area, national governments are giving lip service to family reunification that is often not occurring on a broad enough scale, and avoiding the minefield of intercountry adoption by placing children in old style group facilities, or, to please the United Nations, in “family like” care–namely, foster care or smaller group homes. Inexplicably, and cruelly, truly permanent alternatives are being passed over.

It would be wonderful to encourage those with direct experience of children in institutions–orphanages and more “family like” care–to share this information.  The ideal would be to bring together various sources of information on the world’s many social orphans, and in a modest way fill in the terrible gap between our platitutes about children and their rights, and the scandalous lack of knowledge about where the social orphans are, how they came to be there, and how they actually live.

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