Children’s homes: The nanny state

EVEN on a sunny day Sarata Noua is a gloomy place. From 1969 until it closed in 2012 this orphanage in rural Moldova housed up to 152 children at a time. Young people aged between seven and 22 slept ten to a room, sharing a weekly shower in a dark bathroom. Though murals of tropical lakes brighten the walls, it still feels much like a workhouse.Around the world about 2m children are thought to live in institutions like this. The true figure may be bigger. Some, as in Moldova, are left over from Soviet times, when governments took responsibility for children born with disabilities (occasionally against their families’ wishes). Indian orphanages often cater to unwanted girls, many of whom leave only when they marry. In China around 800 state-run “social-welfare institutions” house abandoned children or those with mild disabilities. Charities in Africa run institutions for those whose families have died in genocides or from HIV/AIDs. But one cheerful fact unites these dreary places—big children’s homes are falling out of fashion.In Romania, once notorious for its decrepit orphanages, the number of children living in institutions has dropped from more than 32,000 in…

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