While situations arise around the world where children are no longer able to live with their parents, how these situations are handled varies widely.

In western countries there are strict guidelines for how the situation will be handled, and everyone involved in the temporary care of that child is trained and has strict oversight.

However, when we look at Southeast Asia, we see a different trend.

In general we find foreign NGOs, missionaries and volunteers opening private children’s homes to care for “orphans”. Most of these homes operate outside the law by avoiding the registration process required by the local government.

What is the biggest factor that allows these illegal, privately run, children’s homes to continue operating without oversight and regulation?

Private donors like you.

We, as a western society, have abandoned the idea of orphanages and the institutionalization of children. Why then, do we financially support our fellow citizens who choose to move to another country and institutionalize the children of that country under a new name “Children’s Home” ?

Why do we tolerate and condone the institutionalization of large numbers of children whose parents are living and long to be able to care for and properly provide for their children, but cannot due to their economic circumstances?

While it sounds harsh, the reality is that children’s homes are not the compassionate savior of the orphan.

Instead, illegal private children’s homes are a device that separates vulnerable children from their parents through the use of financial and educational incentives.


A sobering look at the proliferation of private children’s homes in Thailand

Data collected for this report was gathered over a two-year period between 2016 and 2017 by the One Sky Foundation. One Sky recruited 31 volunteers to conduct online research to identify children’s homes in Thailand for 336 hours and cross-check the list with the Thai government list of registered private children’s homes.


One Sky documented a total of 240 unregistered, private children's homes (UPCH) believed to currently be operating in Thailand.


The majority of UPCHs are funded by western donors and are religious in nature, which has implications for the right of children to maintain their language, culture, and religion.


Fifty-three percent of the UPCHs explicitly advertised volunteer positions working with children. Of these UPCH's, 10% stated that criminal background checks were required before acceptance.


Children living in poverty, "at risk", or lacking access to proper education are the primary target populations for unregistered private children's homes (UPCH), despite the UN Guidelines (paragraph 15) which explicitly stating that poverty, whether financial or material, is not a sufficient condition for the separation of a child from their family.


Children from poor and marginalized migrant populations along Thailand's north and northwestern borders are particularly vulnerable to unnecessary separation from their families and institutionalization by UPCHs.


50 UPCHs posted identifiable photos of children on their website, including pictures of children with their full names (or nickname), age, location, HIV/AIDS status , and reason for being in the home (e.g., neglect, abuse, parent in prison, etc.). This is a clear violation of the 2003 CPA and a breach of a child's right to privacy and confidentiality when in alternative care.

Data above taken from A Hidden Crisis: The proliferation of private childrens homes in Thailand, by One Sky Foundation

The reality is that there are very few barriers to setting up an orphanage in Thailand. Anyone can, and many people do, open an orphanage in and fill it with children from poor families. A simple google search finds countless websites from children’s homes who skillfully market the children’s personal stories and photographs to raise funds. On investigation children are often found to be misrepresented, their stores embellished, or even completely fabricated in order to boost income and to attract volunteers and their money.

Some websites selling volunteering holidays, and past volunteers writing blogs, write endearing stories about the hugs they received from the children as soon as they arrived. This is not a cause for celebration, this is a severe warning that these children are lacking the consistent love and good parenting that will help them to become stable and happy adults with a healthy fear of strangers and developed attachment skills.

Throughout SE Asia, research has repeatedly confirmed that poverty, and its consequences, are the main factor behind the large numbers of children who are entering children’s homes, despite having parents. The Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children were written due to international concern about the over use of children’s homes and the unnecessary separation of children from their families.

A good starting point is the belief that families are the essential building blocks of community and a healthy society.

Children thrive in families, immediate and extended(kinship care) and foster families too.

If you also believe that this is true, then we have a lot in common.

If you find the information on this website interesting and you would like to talk with us please reach out.

We would be very happy to support you in any way we can to see more children in Thailand growing up in a loving family.


With concerted effort and the right investments, the institutionalisation of children could end globally by 2050.

Donors play a vital role in making this a reality and in influencing other stakeholders on the ground, especially those who are resistant to reform. This report provides donors with the information they need to make informed decisions about investments and funding in relation to the institutionalization of children, which is known to be harmful to their health, development and future life chances. It encourages donors to review funding procedures to ensure that they are strengthening families through reforming community-based services and not inadvertently funding institutional care.

If you see or hear about a child in danger please contact:


Thai Government Child Protection hotline


Childline Thailand hotline

Learn more about Alternative Care in Thailand

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