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Institutional Childcare Impacts Childhood Development for Orphans

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

The Global Prevalence of Orphanages

It may surprise many to learn that the highest number of orphanages and housing institutions for children exist in many of the highest-income countries in the world. The largest concentrations are in south Asia, Europe, central and east Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, with the lowest (yet still significant) number in North America. Although orphanages in the US have effectively been replaced with the foster care system, youth in and from foster care face many of the same difficulties as young people who experience other forms of institutional childcare.

Institutionalization in Orphanages Can Cause Impaired Childhood Development

Studies show that orphanages are “universally recognised as providing suboptimal caregiving environments” where many children aren’t exposed to attention, affection, mental stimulation, or stable relationships. As a result, institutionalized children are vulnerable from a young age to impaired brain development, particularly as related to sensory and motor skills, cognitive and language skills, socioemotional skills, and sense of identity.

Young Adults from Orphanages Are Likelier to Have Poor Health and Performance

These childhood development complications can have lasting negative impacts on long-term cognitive functioning when these children become young adults. Effects can include inadequate impulse control, low social engagement, problems regulating emotions, low self-esteem, behavioral problems, poor intellectual function, and low academic achievement. Without equity-based educational and care resources, adult orphans are less likely to reach successful life outcomes, such as consistent gainful employment or healthy personal relationships.

The Foster-Care-to-Prison Pipeline

Youth from institutional childcare systems are far likelier to drop out of high school than their family-raised counterparts, even those from low-income backgrounds. Currently, only about 50% of American foster children graduate from high school; less than 3% graduate from a four-year college, which means most won’t have rewarding or lucrative job opportunities. Consequently, young people who experience poverty in addition to developmental difficulties and poor health are also more likely to enter the criminal justice system than to get the support services they need.

Ways to Address Problems Caused by Child Institutionalization

High-quality education, healthcare, and other support systems are extremely important for helping young people overcome the disadvantages that time spent in orphanages and foster care have caused. Organizations dedicated to providing equitable care and coaching have tremendous potential to change the lives of orphans everywhere in the world. BeamUp and Fundación Esperanza Contigo are two such organizations; they partnered with medical providers to offer healthcare access for four orphanages in Tijuana, Mexico.

BeamUp offers programming to help underinvested youth succeed in every aspect of life. Our goal is to provide opportunities for youth and young adults of lower socioeconomic status to equip them with the necessary tools. By empowering them, they are better equipped to lift themselves out of poverty and violence.

At the core of BeamUp is access to quality education about a healthy lifestyle, professional education, plant-based whole foods, making climate friendly choices, and mindfulness. Donate today!

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