I found this very interesting, especially after reading the several reader comments in support of orphanages from those who were raised in one.
Last month, Duke University researchers issued the first report on their multiyear study of 3,000 orphaned, abandoned and neglected children in developing countries in Africa and East and South Asia. About half were reared in small and large "institutions" (or orphanages) and half in "community" programs (kin and foster care). Contrary to conventional wisdom, the researchers found that children raised in orphanages by nonfamily members were no worse in their health, emotional and cognitive functioning, and physical growth than those cared for in their communities by relatives. More important, the orphanage-reared children performed better than their counterparts cared for by community strangers, which is commonly the case in foster-care programs.
Critics of orphanages point out that children are always better off in loving and safe biological families. That's always been the case, of course, but many kids have no hope of access to such families. There are about 143 million orphaned children, and tens of millions more abandoned, in the world today. Over a half-million American kids are in foster care (which is often luxury care by the standards of orphanage care in poor countries), but still a sizable percentage of American foster-care kids will have their disadvantages compounded in one important way: They will spend their entire childhoods in the worst of all possible situations, "permanent temporary care," in which they will be moved from one placement to the next to the next, many losing count of their foster homes before they "age out" of the system at 18.
I wrote a column for this newspaper defending my own orphanage and others like it: "Most critics would like the public to believe that those of us who went through orphanages were throttled by the experience. No doubt, some were. However, most have charged on." The children at Barium Springs Home for Children worked a lot and didn't get the hugs many children take for granted, but we did get advantages that many children today don't get—a sense of security, permanence and home.
I was shocked by the number of orphanage alumni who called, faxed or emailed in agreement. What's more, many added, "My orphanage was better than yours," which made me wonder if the experts knew what they were talking about.