World's orphans must get more help, says JK Rowling

Shocked by the state of institutions, the Harry Potter author wants children moved into family care

A major meeting of government officials this week will attempt to transform the lives of millions of children languishing in orphanages around the world, thanks in large part to the world's most famous orphan, Harry Potter.

The gathering of 40 delegates from 10 countries, including Russia, Cambodia, Haiti and Ukraine, has been organised by JK Rowling's children's charity Lumos, and aims to move children out of institutions such as orphanages and into family or community-based care.

Lumos is the charitable extension of the Harry Potter franchise which made the author's name and fortune. It has a nod to its benefactor in its name – after the spell used to generate light at the end of the young wizard's wand.

The charity was founded nearly a decade ago after Rowling was confronted by a harrowing picture in a newspaper of a caged child and an article about disabled children in the Czech Republic being restrained in beds. She vowed to herself "you are going to read the article, and if it is as bad as it looks you are going to do something about it".

And she did, by setting up her own charity which works in countries such as the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine. Rowling funds the running costs, meaning that all donations are spent on the charity's work – with its stated aim of ending the practice of institutionalising children in orphanages worldwide by 2050.

"There is still much to be done to transform the lives of eight million children in institutions worldwide – including raising awareness and challenging the misconception around the world that orphanages are 'good' for children in adversity, which they are not," said Rowling.

JK Rowling and Stella McCartney at an event for Rowling's charity Lumos JK Rowling and Stella McCartney at an event for Rowling's charity Lumos Writing in the foreword to the charity's latest annual review, being released tomorrow, she added: "Deinstitutionalisation (DI) – the technical name for a life-enhancing process that transforms children's lives – is not just about closing buildings. It is about the reform of entire care systems, to ensure they are able to meet the needs of all children and, crucially, enable families to stay together."

A million children, particularly in poorer Eastern European countries, are separated from their families and placed in large institutions or orphanages. They are part of a global problem, with about eight million children in this plight worldwide, according to the charity. And the vast majority – 90 per cent – have parents but are taken from them for reasons such as family poverty or because the child is disabled or is from an ethnic minority.

Infants who spend longer than six months in institutions suffer developmental and emotional difficulties throughout their childhood. Disabled children in institutions are 100 times more likely to die there than their able-bodied counterparts, according to Lumos. Rowling's charity works to help governments replace institutional and orphanage care with systems to care for children in families and communities.

Since the start of last year, it claims to have saved the lives of 646 children suffering from malnutrition and neglect, and to have trained thousands of social workers, health professionals, teachers and policy-makers. In the past four years, it has helped 12,000 children move out of large institutions and orphanages into family and community care.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before