A conference held in Galway this week showcased the results of a project to help end practices that have seen millions of children separated from their families in orphanages.
This work was a partnership between NUI Galway, Pennsylvania State University, and Lumos, the international children’s rights organisation founded by J.K Rowling.
The three year project involved 97 child care and protection trainers sharing their expertise with over 14,000 practitioners across 14 countries.
An estimated 8 million children around the world live in institutions and so-called orphanages.
The majority of those, 80% according to Lumos, have parents that are still alive who could look after them if they got some support.
Professor Pat Dolan, Director of the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway, said:
“Our work with Lumos is built on a mutual objective that governments, communities and professionals begin to move away from reliance on institutionalisation as the default solution for vulnerable children and instead, focus their resources, capacity and skills on community-based solutions.”
At the event in Galway this week a documentary was shown that focuses on the journey embarked upon by frontline practitioners working on ending reliance on orphanages.
The film, Together we Stared at the Moon, produced by Irish filmmaker Niamh Heery, set in Bulgaria and Colombia, features the stories of practitioners who are working with alternatives to institutional care in their countries.
Throughout this project the child care professionals held workshops, training courses, conferences and other events to try and find ways to keep child out of an orphanage.
The Atlantic Philanthropies provided the funding for people from Lumos and the two universities to carry out this work.
Lumos aims to end the institutionalisation of children by transforming education, health and social care systems to move towards providing family-based and community care.
This partnership is based on finding practical and sustainable ways to support families, particularly among those that have been marginalised.
Alex Christopoulos, Lumos’ Deputy CEO, said the joint work “Has played a pioneering role in helping to understand how child care and protection systems can be reformed in different contexts and cultures.”
By focusing on their shared goal that no child should be in an orphanage they, “Explored the role practitioners, communities, families and children and youth play in reforming systems,” he said.
“Moving away from an institutional one size fits all approach, to building the frameworks, skills and resources needed to enable children to flourish in families.”