When you imagine an orphanage in the U.S., there’s a good chance your mind thinks of a movie or a book set some time ago. That’s because in the U.S., orphanages are a part of the past.
This isn’t the case everywhere, though. If you’re supporting childcare or child welfare initiatives in developing countries, you may well be supporting orphanages. This is especially true in Mexico where they’re still relatively commonplace.
Read on to learn more about Mexican orphanages, the struggles they face, and how you can help the children in their care.
Orphanage vs. Foster Care
While foster care is the familiar system to most Americans, it’s important to understand how modern orphanages differ if you’re interested in donating to one.
To begin with, foster care involves placing children with families or in group homes for care, in what is considered a more traditional arrangement. There are pros and cons to foster care — it’s not necessarily a perfect system. For instance, sometimes families choose to foster for the wrong reasons, or aren’t properly equipped to provide adequate care. However, the benefits typically outweigh the risks and it’s the favored approach in many developed countries.
Orphanages, on the other hand, provide care in a more institutional setting and are common in developing countries. As opposed to assigning each child to his or her own foster home or family, children live all together in an orphanage and the staff care for all of the children under its roof. One of the primary concerns of the orphanage approach (as opposed to foster care) is that these institutions don’t always provide the one-on-one time and attention that children need; though, many nations are improving their orphanages thanks to foreign assistance and improved training.
The State of Orphanages in Mexico
Although foster care is gaining momentum in Mexico, orphanages still dominate by a long shot.
There are over 700 orphanages — some public, some private — that house over 30,000 children in Mexico. It’s estimated that 400,000 Mexican children are without parents, and 100,000 of these children are homeless. Needless to say, improved housing solutions are needed for orphaned children in Mexico.
Problems Abound in Many Existing Orphanages
Unfortunately, many of the children who do wind up in orphanages receive subpar care, or are subject to abuse. This is partially due to the lack of oversight and accountability for orphanages in Mexico.
There is no national census of orphaned children. With no records, it’s extremely difficult to keep track of where these children are, or who is taking care of them. In recent incidents, hundreds of children have been found living in squalor and experiencing regular abuse, which has drawn international attention to the situation.
As a result of increased awareness domestically and abroad, the Mexican government is under pressure to step up their regulation of orphanages, and orphanages have been encouraged to improve their operations.
A lack of funds is another problem: without enough funding, orphanages can’t meet children’s needs on a basic level, nevermind in terms of nurturing and preparing them for their future. If the situation for orphaned children is to improve, these organizations desperately need financial help in order to support the kids in their care; yet the negative coverage of Mexican orphanages makes it difficult to garner support and donations, compounding the issue.
Not All Bad: Some Orphanages are Doing Great Work
So, if many orphanages in Mexico aren’t adequately serving the children in their care, why should you donate to support these causes? The fact is, while the Mexican orphanage system has issues as a whole, there are many instances of high-quality and legitimate orphanages in Mexico that are working hard to offer the right care. The answer is not to hold back our support for Mexican orphanages, but to instead do the research to ensure we’re pouring funding into the right organizations.
In order to help our donors navigate this, the orphanages we work with at ICF are thoroughly screened and approved — just like all of the organizations and initiatives we collaborate with. We do the research and work for you, so you can trust that when you donate through ICF, your support is going to help a worthy and reliable organization.
Casa Hogar Alegría, for example, houses abandoned and abused girls in Toluca, Estado de Mexico; the home provides young girls with food, shelter, medical care, and education. Qualified personnel and a nurturing atmosphere prepare the girls for better futures. Meanwhile, at Casa Hogar Cabo San Lucas in Baja California Sur, young boys are given the tools, sustenance, and life skills they require to go on to lead successful lives.
These two organizations (and others like them) focus on key factors such as: hiring skilled staff, training their teams extensively, and providing all of the necessities young children need — from food, to education, to healthy social development.
Choosing the Right Orphanage to Support
It would be a mistake to let the bad press about the Mexican orphanage system turn you away from donating to children in need across this deserving nation. By just doing a little research to identify orphanages that are run responsibly and reliably, you can feel confident that your contribution will make a positive impact on the lives of orphaned children living in Mexico.
At ICF, we make it easy for you to support responsible orphanages, by setting up funds for local organizations that we know and trust, such as Casa Hogar Alegría and Casa Hogar Cabo San Lucas. Thanks to the generous contributions of our donors in 2017, over 180 children received improved food, shelter, or care of some sort. The installation of solar panels and water filters at orphanages has helped staff and administrators dedicate more time and resources to the children, while enhanced training and teaching opportunities have improved financial and human resources operations.