Today at 11 EST: MacArthur Finalists Plan to End Orphanages by 2050

Today at 11 am EST, I’m going to be tuning in to Lumos and its partners, Catholic Relief Services and Maestral International, as they hold a Facebook event where they will talk about their plans as finalists in the MacArthur Foundation #100andchange global competition, which will make a $100 million grant to one of four finalists.


As a supporter of Lumos, I’m thrilled to see that the organization has teamed up with other powerful partners to move forward on its goal of ending orphanages by 2050. If they receive the $100 million grant from MacArthur, that would make a huge difference in their ability to carry out their ambitious plans.

MacArthur Foundation $100 Million Finalists

The Finalist Friday event today is hosted by Sheilah Kast of On The Record. Discussing the plans for how the grant would impact the future of child welfare globally will be Georgette Mulheir, CEO of Lumos, Shannon Senefeld, Vice President of Program Impact and Quality Assurance at Catholic Relief Services, and Philip Goldman, President of Maestral International.

When I decided to get into online publishing over a decade ago, it was with the idea that, as a social worker, there was much more I could do to support “widows and orphans” — a euphemism for the people most likely to be left out of society’s benefits. Widows and orphans still struggle in today’s world, and we now recognize many more groups of marginalized people — people of color, LGBTQ, trauma survivors, the disabled. All of those groups are part of what we want to shine a light on here at Philanthropy Women.

I want to take this opportunity to make a plug to progressive women philanthropists to add Lumos to the causes you support. Ending orphanages is very much a women’s issue. Women are at the center of both the problem and the solution of children without families. We now know that in developing nations, many women feel they have little choice other than to give their child up to an orphanage, largely because of their own extreme poverty. If we could do more to support women with children in the community, we could make progress toward the goal of ending orphanages.

The proposal that Lumos and its partners have presented to MacArthur will reunite an estimated 8 million children in orphanages with their families or will find healthier family-like settings for them. It will also repurpose existing orphanages into family support centers. Funds that are now going to orphanages will help fund families and caregivers for children in their own communities.

From Lumos:

The Problem

Globally, millions of children live in orphanages. Research shows 80-90 percent have a living parent, many of whom would prefer to care for their children if they had the resources to do so. Children are placed in orphanages primarily because of poverty and their families’ inability to access basic services such as education or specialized assistance for children with disabilities. Research demonstrates that residential care has a negative impact on children’s cognitive, physical, emotional, and intellectual development. In addition, well-meaning people donate millions of dollars to orphanages, while funds spent on orphanages could support integration of ten times as many children into families and achieve better results.

The Solution

Catholic Relief Services, in partnership with Lumos and Maestral International, will change the way society cares for these children by reuniting them with supportive and nurturing families and transforming orphanages into family service providers. The partnership will prevent or slow down the number of new children entering residential care and strengthen families and caregivers so institutionalized children can be reintegrated into family care. Changing the Way We Care also intends to work closely with facility staff to identify and develop social service skills and outreach required to support children and families so they can stay together.

With the aim of taking this solution globally, Changing the Way We Care will first work with governments, community leaders, and orphanage staff in seven developing countries to identify the best family-based option for each child, provide families with parenting skills and services, and help policymakers craft better policies that support family-based care. Changing the Way We Care will then use evidence from these seven demonstration countries to influence other countries, regional political bodies and funders to build global momentum and to redirect donations and resources to serve vulnerable children in a way that supports family-based care.

What’s Changed

The team made the following changes to its proposal since it was first submitted in October of 2016, informed by additional research, project development, and authentic engagement with communities of interest—defined as beneficiaries, those who might suffer harm, other funders, and competitors.

  • Identified seven demonstration countries: Guatemala, Haiti, India (Odisha), Indonesia (Central Java), Kenya, Lebanon, and Moldova. These countries are regionally diverse, represent different income levels and a range of factors that affect placement of children into care (disability, HIV/AIDS, refugee status) and meet the following criteria: government commitment to family/community care over orphanages, active civil society engagement, availability of services to support prevention/reintegration, experience and/or presence of CRS, Lumos and Maestral, and likelihood of regional influence.
  • Documented community engagement with policy makers, funders of orphanages, orphanage staff, parents who have institutionalized children, and “care leavers” (individuals who were once in institutional care and have left for a variety of reasons). Also engaged widely with non-governmental organizations, multi-lateral and bi-lateral organizations, faith communities, academics and the private sector.
  • Proposed the creation of a seven-country network of “care leavers.” This group will contribute to deliberations and decisions of governments and stakeholders in how best to care for children in family settings.
  • Incorporated approaches to meet specific challenges for children with disabilities and other children with special needs.

Tune in for the Facebook event today here. 


How Lumos Empowers Social Change for Orphans Worldwide

100&Change: Plan and 99 Other Orgs Vie for $100 Mil

MacArthur Foundation

Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

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