28 September 2016

Transforming the lives of children in Latin America

Photo, top: Sisters Maria and Carmen (in school uniform) recently left an orphanage in Panama to join a caring foster family. We are working with our partners, RELAF, to close the institution and find loving families for all the children who remain there.

Photo: Sisters Maria and Carmen (in school uniform) recently left an orphanage in Panama to join a caring foster family. We are working with our partners, RELAF, to close the institution and find loving families for all the children who remain there.

A powerful article “Out of sight: the orphanages where disabled children are abandoned”, published by The Guardian online this week, highlights the abuse of children with special needs who are confined to an institution in Mexico City.

“A dozen children with cerebral palsy lie on thin mattresses on the floor of a spacious room. A smell of cleaning products unsuccessfully masks the scent of urine.”

There are at approximately 250,000 children living in orphanages and other residential institutions in Latin America but the true figure is likely to be much higher. No one knows for sure because of a lack of reliable statistics.

The mission of Hope and Homes for Children is to be the catalyst for the eradication of orphanage care worldwide. In Latin America and the Caribbean, we are working in close partnership with RELAF (the Foster Family Latin American Network) to help develop robust fostering and adoption systems, to move children from institutions into family based care and to prevent family breakdown.

Victoria Martin is our Regional Advisor, based in Buenos Aires. Despite the scale of the challenge, she’s optimistic that change is possible:

“As more people foster children and provide them with an alternative family, their friends, their relatives and their neighbours see how fostering works and begin to understand that it is possible for a child who is not a relative to become part of their family. That’s the best way to change hearts and minds in Latin America and around the world and that’s how we will build the momentum we need to bring everyone on this journey together.”