By Sally Faiz, Head Philanthropic Programs at UBS Optimus Foundation
According to UN figures, up to eight million children globally are in institutional care, sometimes called orphanages, with as many as 80% of them not actually being orphans.1 They’ve been separated from their parents due to poverty, disabilities or discrimination. Or they mistakenly believe an orphanage provides more opportunities, being promised their child will grow up safe, educated and nourished. But this is not true. And we have the evidence to prove this.
Children raised in orphanages can experience delays in terms of IQ, language, speech and vocabulary. Every three months a baby spends in institutional care their development is stunted by one month.2 Even well-run institutions can’t offer the loving care and attention a child needs to develop fully, meaning these children will grow up lacking the basic skills they need to function independently in a community. The lack of individual care and attention foils brain development in children. They do not forge bonds with any individual and so any emotional progress is suppressed at an early age. This situation is particularly damaging for children who enter orphanages before the age of three; the younger the child, the more profound the damage to the child's developing brain. This is especially a tragic tale in China, where 98% of abandoned children have disabilities.3
It takes less than you might think to halt family separation and reverse the damaging effects of institutionalization on young children. This is why the UBS Optimus Foundation and its front-line partners are working to support governments in developing alternative care options, and place children into caring families where they will receive the care and attention that institutions cannot provide. Just one grant of 225,000 Swiss francs is enough to secure a better future for 445 at-risk children. Watch the video to see an example of how we redirect funds to build strong and supportive child and family care systems in Uganda, Africa.
1 Source: Child Safe
2 Source: US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health
3 Source: The Globe and Mail