Orphanages are financially unviable as a long-term solution, costing far more per child than alternative, community-based care. A recent study in sub-Saharan Africa showed that institutional care can cost up to six times as much as alternative child care mechanisms. Yet many donors would rather donate to orphanages, where they can see an actual child, build an emotional ‘relationship’, and feel that they know exactly where their donation is going.

Better, more appropriate community based alternatives, that are more child focused, rather than donor focused, are all too often overlooked. These could include Family Preservation activities, Placement with relatives, and Community-Based family Foster-Care, with either community or NGO support. Furthermore, these are interventions that should be implemented only while the child awaits reunification with their family, or is integrated into another, more permanent, family setting.

These mechanisms need to be explored and developed as the primary de facto options for alternative child care. Orphanages need to become the last resort that they were always meant to be. Every time a new orphanage is opened in Cambodia, it is in direct contravention of the guidelines and policies of the Royal Government of Cambodia. The government fully supports the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and expressly states that long-term institutionalization of children should be a last resort. The government is currently making moves towards developing stronger monitoring systems in response to the proliferationof orphanages, and the increasing number of reports of child rights abuses in such institutions.