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Calls mount to stop orphanages exploiting poor children

This article is more than 12 months old

LONDON Six years after Australian lawyer Kate van Doore set up an orphanage in Nepal, she was astounded to find that the children she thought she was helping were not orphans.

They were "paper orphans" - children given fake identities after being taken from their families and placed in orphanages to attract funding from foreign donors and tourists.

"It was devastating to discover these children had been exploited for profit. I was horrified and determined to fix it," Ms van Doore said.

She is now calling for an end to orphanages, which she says cause irreparable harm to children and fuel trafficking.

About 80 per cent of an estimated 8 million children in orphanages or other institutions are not orphans, according to Lumos, a charity founded by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, which aims to have no children living in institutions by 2050.

Traffickers have worked out that orphanages are good business, drawing donations from individuals, governments, charities and faith groups.

From Cambodia to Haiti, the number of orphanages across the developing world has mushroomed, but they need children in them.

Experts say "child-finders" often prey on poor rural families, promising to provide their children with an education.

"We don't have orphanages because we have orphans. We have orphans because we have orphanages," said Ms van Doore.

In 2006, she founded an orphanage in Kathmandu with two friends. Four years later their charity, Forget Me Not, took over another orphanage in Uganda.

"The kids started saying to us, 'Can I go home to mum now?'" Ms van Doore said. "The whole lid got blown because these kids stepped forward and said, 'I'm not an orphan.'" - REUTERS

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