Letter to the NY Times – A Look at Children and Orphanages

December 26, 2009

By Joan Kaufman, Mary Dozier and Carole Shauffer  |  New York Times  —

To the Editor:

Re “Study Suggests Orphanages Are Not So Bad” (news article, Dec. 18):

The article describing the study of 6- to 12-year-olds suggested that orphanages are not so bad. As the authors of the study noted, institutional care is detrimental for infants and young children. For the older children in the study, institutional care was not uniformly bad, and differences among orphanages contributed greatly to differences in children’s development.

As we have learned in studies of day care and institutions in this country and elsewhere, quality matters. If institutional settings are used for older children, making them familylike optimizes outcomes. It is important to note, however, that when group and institutional care has been compared to enriched foster care and care by relatives, home-based interventions appear more efficacious and cost-effective.

Our policy recommendations call for no institutional care for infants and young children; subsidized foster- and relative-care for infants, toddlers and older children; and, only when such homes are not available, quality, regulated, family-style group care with consistent, stable caregivers.

Joan Kaufman, Mary Dozier and Carole Shauffer
New Haven, Dec. 20, 2009

The writers are, respectively, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine; a professor of psychology at the University of Delaware; and executive director of the Youth Law Center in San Francisco.