Washington: Millions of poor, disabled and trafficked children worldwide are trapped in institutions and orphanages despite having a living parent or relative, according to a children`s charity founded by author JK Rowling.
In a report released on Sunday, the charity Lumos said that of eight million children living in so-called `orphanages`, more than 80 percent are not orphans, and could be reunited with their families given the right support.
Lumos chief executive Georgette Mulheir said because institutions run to routines, the children come second, and demonstrate "delays in all areas of development".
"In poor-standard institutions children may even fail to sit, stand, walk and talk by the age of four," Mulheir said in a statement as the report was launched.
"The resulting lack of emotional and physical contact, regular stimulation and interaction leads to significant impairment of brain development among infants raised in institutions."
Lumos found that children in institutions are ten times more likely to be involved in prostitution, 40 times more likely to have a criminal record and 500 times more likely to commit suicide.
POVERTY THE MAIN FACTOR
The Global Picture of Children in Institutions report found that as many as 95 percent of the 800,000 children living in orphanages in Russia have a living parent.
In Indonesia, 94 percent of an estimated 500,000 in institutions are not orphans, and 80 percent of the 30,000 children in orphanages in Haiti have living family members.
Poverty is the main reason children are sent to institutions, the report found.
In some countries, poor parents are offered money to give up children and corrupt organisations benefit from donations to their orphanage or through child trafficking. Disability is also a common reason for children to be left in institutions.
Mulheir said the charity wanted to challenge a decades-old belief that "orphanages are good for children".
"This may be a difficult message for staff who work, often voluntarily, in orphanages, as well as the millions of concerned citizens who donate to charities supporting them," she said.
"However, our case, simply, is that there is a better way."
Lumos called for community services to help families care for their children at home, and family-based alternatives for children who cannot be cared for by their parents, including relatives, foster care and adoption.
The report was accompanied by the release of a short film by Lumos, "Behind the Walls", which shows footage of a child walking through an abandoned and derelict orphanage.
In the film, J.K. Rowling says: "This is a massive global problem – eight million children trapped in institutions around the globe. But it`s a problem we can solve. I think all of us want to think that we`ve helped give the next generation the best possible start in life."