When placing children in institutional or residential care, there is the risk of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and other internationally recognized human rights being violated. These conventions state that parents or, when applicable, the extended family or legal guardians have the primary responsibility to take care of, support and guide the child in the child’s best interest. When a child is institutionalized, often without any legal contract or documentation, the parents or guardians forgo their rights and responsibility.

Many institutions are wholly inadequate to meet the complex needs and demands of childhood care and development, with untrained or unqualified staff, poor conditions, or a lack of child protection policies. In such institutions children are at risk of neglect, as well as physical and sexual abuse. Child rights may be further violated, and child safety jeopardized, by orphanages that allow visitors or un-vetted volunteers to spend time with children, or that send orphans out onto the streets to canvas for donations, often late at night.