In recent years, both The Guardian and The New York Times have featured lengthy exposés of orphanages in the majority world. It appears that many orphanages have been run for nefarious ends. There have been reports of children being trafficked into orphanages either in return for financial benefit to impoverished parents or merely on the promise of a better life for their children. There is also evidence that in some of the worst cases, children have then been sexually and physically abused in the orphanages or sold on to be exploited by others.

Cases like these have led Australian Senator Linda Reynolds to campaign from within the Australian government for action on orphanage tourism and to lobby for “orphanage trafficking” to be classed as a new crime under the legislative umbrella of Australia’s Modern Day Slavery Act. Christians have been implicated in these terrible abuses, as the exposés reveal that churchgoers worldwide have been financially and practically propping up the global orphanage system over many decades, potentially making children more vulnerable to exploitation.

Personally, I have found reading these articles incredibly tough—for a whole variety of reasons. My mother spent some of her childhood in an orphanage in India. My wife’s grandparents ran a well-respected children’s care home. I began fostering and adopting children 13 years ago. I am the founding director of a charity working specifically with vulnerable children and I regularly consult for large Christian NGOs.

Additionally, members of my local church and more than a couple of friends currently live in or have been raised in institutions. Many more friends and church family support orphanages around ...

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