Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Considering Implications

I have been back in Cambodia for 3 months and one of the most disturbing things have heard about was about the situation with youth leaving orphanages in Cambodia. There are more than 200 orphanages in Cambodia that have often been set up by well meaning people (including many expatriates) who just wanted to ‘do something’. Without considering the long term implications of taking in a group of children they opened the doors and children came. The selection criteria was often not clear and they didn’t have the man-power (or sometimes the language) to ensure that those who came did not have a family/community who could take them in. As a result children who shouldn’t really be in orphanages are there.

And now, the children are older, in fact some cannot be called children anymore and they are no longer considered "cute" or "fundable." Those children who are compliant and institutionalized are the perfect children for an orphanage but what about when they need to leave the orphanage? They don’t know how to live in the real world. In contrast, those children who start to push against the system and the hormones kick in are not perfect children for an orphanage and they may well be thrown out on their ear, even before they are adults.

Both sets of children are primary targets for sexual exploitation! Orphanages must be a last resort and those that exist must have better selection criteria. There must be better re-integration strategies for all children in residential care.

Glenn Miles, Director of Asia Prevention

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