There are many reasons why parents place their children in institutions.
In the UK the main reasons are linked to difficulties the parents are experiencing. This may be as a result of drug, alcohol or other substance misuse. It may be due to mental or physical illness or due to the parents having learning disabilities making it difficult for them to understand how to meet the needs of their children. Most parents in the UK whose children cannot live with them love their children very much but due to their own situation and often their own experience of being parented they cannot safely care for their children or meet their needs.
In the countries where Lumos works there are far more reasons why parents do not look after their own children. There will be some parents who have similar difficulties to those in the UK, but there are other reasons why children may be placed in an institution.
Some parents of children with disabilities believe that their children will be cared for better in an institution than at home. Often at the time the child was born there were few services in the community which supported and helped parents to care for their children at home and parents believed that their children’s needs would be met better in an institution. That is why such an important part of closing institutions is to create community support services for children with disabilities and then provide parents with advice, information and support to care for their children at home with them.
Another reason for children being placed in institutions is because of the poverty of their parents. Article 27 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children have a right to a standard of living that is good enough to meet their physical and mental needs, it goes on to say that the government of the country should help families who cannot afford to provide this. Where parents are living in poverty they may feel that their children will have better access to good food and education in an institution than they would have at home. Again providing community-based family support services and working with national governments to ensure that all children have access to nutritious or experience of providing good parenting to their child. This will include young single parents who may not get support from their own family.
By providing family support services and parenting advice such as parenting courses, more parents are likely to feel confident and supported to care for their children safely at home. Even where there are child protection concerns there will be some parents who with support and advice are able to recognise the difficulties that they have had, and be able to make changes in their responses to and the care they offer their child, enabling the child to return home to live with them. Food, a comfortable home and education is an important part of the deinstitutionalisation process.