|Purpose||Children/young people's welfare; health/education/social care; family support|
|Chief Executive||Georgette Mulheir|
|Main organ||Board of Trustees, chaired by Neil Blair, Founder and President J.K. Rowling|
Lumos is an international non-governmental charity organisation (NGO) founded by the Harry Potter author, J. K. Rowling, who is its President. Lumos is registered in England and Wales as charity number 1112575.
Lumos is dedicated to helping to transform the lives of up to eight million disadvantaged children who live in institutions and so-called orphanages around the world. Lumos uses the phrase ‘so-called’ because the vast majority of children are not orphans but are in institutions because their parents face extreme poverty; because the children have physical and intellectual disabilities, and their parents cannot afford treatment; or because they are from socially excluded groups. When parents are not supported in the community, these factors often lead to the break-up of families.
More than 60 years of research has shown that, despite the best intentions of many people who support and work in them, institutions harm the health and development of children. Separating children from their parents and placing them in large residential institutions deprives them of the love, care and close consistent caregiver engagement they need to grow, prosper and to reach their full potential – physically, intellectually and emotionally. Research suggests children with intellectual disabilities can be particularly at risk of failing to thrive – to the extent of malnutrition and death – through a lack of sustained, specialist care and engagement. Life outcomes for institutionalised children are often poor. One study found that young adults raised in institutions are 10 times more likely to be involved in prostitution than their peers, 40 times more likely to have a criminal record and 500 times more likely to take their own lives.
Lumos began its work by focusing on countries in Central and Eastern Europe, where there has been a culture – a legacy of the former Soviet communist system – of placing vulnerable children in institutions, rather than supporting families to stay together with quality health, education and social services in the community.
Lumos, and others, have worked to encourage the European Commission to establish regulations that state that funding to EU Member States must, from 2014, be used for community services, not to build or renovate residential institutions. Even before the regulations were passed, as a result of years of advocacy and awareness-raising, this principle of funding supporting ‘deinstitutionalisation’ (DI) had already helped divert at least €367 million of EU funding away from institutions towards community services.
Lumos now works on a global scale – particularly promoting family-based care alternatives and helping authorities to reform their systems and close down institutions and orphanages. It is a key member of the Global Alliance for Children – an international grouping of governmental agencies, private foundations and NGOs – which is dedicated to improving the lives of children in adversity and to ensuring that all children reach their full potential.
Lumos collaborates with governments, at all levels, professionals and carers and other NGOs, faith-based groups, as well as communities, families and children, to help transform outdated systems that arbitrarily separate children from their families. It shares expertise and experience and organises training in the skills needed to run family-focused, community-based care systems. In particular, it emphasises the importance of demonstration projects in areas or regions to prove that deinstitutionalisation – a complex set of challenges – can be achieved in practice.
Lumos has teams in countries including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. As part of its global focus on children in orphanages, it has also opened a US office and is currently scoping work in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Neil Blair is the Chair of the Board of Trustees, who include: Kazem Behbehani (to December 2014), Lucy Smith, Rachel Wilson, Sandy Loder, Rita Dattani, Nick Crichton, Danny Cohen and Mark Smith.
In 2004, after seeing an article in the Sunday Times about children being kept in caged beds in institutions, J.K. Rowling felt compelled to address what she saw as a terrible problem. As a result, she founded the charity that became Lumos. She said: "I looked at that photograph of the boy in his cage bed and felt he has absolutely no voice. This touched me as nothing else has because I can think of nobody more powerless than a child, perhaps with a mental or a physical disability, locked away from their family. It was a very shocking realisation to me and that's where the whole thing started".
As a result, she co-founded the Children’s High Level Group with Emma Nicholson to address the problem on institutionalised and disadvantaged children in Eastern Europe. In January 2010, Emma Nicholson resigned as Co-Chair of the board of the English charity. She continues as Chair of the Romanian charity (the Asociatia Children’s High Level Group), in which capacity she is furthering the work she began there and directing its resources to existing and new projects. In 2010, Lumos was launched. The name Lumos comes from a light-giving spell in the Harry Potter books. In 2007, J.K. Rowling auctioned a copy of one of the seven special editions of her book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which raised £1.95 million for Lumos. In December 2008, the book was widely published in aid of the charity and became the fastest-selling book of that year.
- "Charity Commission". Lumos. 2013-02-25.
- The number of “orphanages” or residential institutions and the number of children living in them is unknown. The number of “orphanages” or residential institutions and the number of children living in them is unknown. Reportedly low estimates indicate that anywhere between 2 and 8 million children are in institutional care. (UNICEF estimates that more than 2 million children are in institutional care around the world, but this is an outdated figure based on a limited country scan, and UNICEF frequently acknowledges it as an underestimate. UNICEF (2009). Progress for children: A report card on child protection. Two other reports put the figure at 8 million; the latter even consider this to be an underestimate. See Pinheiro, PS (2006). Report of the independent expert for the United Nations study on violence against children; Save the Children UK (2009) Keeping children out of harmful institutions: Why we should be investing in family-based care.)
- Parents who can’t afford to feed, clothe or send a child to school have little choice. Poverty is recognised as the main driver of child institutionalisation in most countries. (a)52% of children in institutions in Sierra Leone were there due to poverty. (b)74% of children in a sample study in Moldova were placed due to poverty. (c)In a study of maternity hospitals in Europe, staff in 75% of hospitals stated poverty as a possible cause of abandonment. (d)Over 40% of children in institutions in North East Sri Lanka were placed due to poverty. (e)Hospital staff at times encourage parents to give up babies. Parents can’t afford time or specialist carers to look after their child. There is no inclusive education so a residential school far from home is the only option. Children with disabilities are viewed as a problem to be dealt with away from mainstream society. In some African countries they are considered unlucky or cursed. (f)45% of children in Russian institutions have a disability. (g)In Europe, Roma children with no disabilities are often incorrectly placed in remedial ‘special schools’ for mentally disabled children, according to a European Commission report. (h)90% of the 11 million ‘abandoned or orphaned’ children in India are girls. Sources: (a)D Lamin,‘Improving the care and protection of children in Sierra Leone’, UNICEF, 2008. Cited in: Csáky, C., Keeping Children Out of Harmful Institutions: Why we should be investing in family-based care, Save the Children, London, 2009, p20; (b)Lumos Foundation Moldova, Strategic Review of the system of caring for vulnerable children: Republic of Moldova, unpublished, 2014; (c)The University of Nottingham, Child Abandonment and its Prevention in Europe, The European Commission’s Daphne Programme, 2012, p11. http://www.bettercarenetwork. org/BCN/details.asp?id=30091&themeID=1001&topicID=1006 [accessed 30 October 2014]; (d)Home Truths: Children’s Rights in Institutional Care in Sri Lanka, Save the Children in Sri Lanka, 2005, p. 26; (e)Chiwaula, L., Dobson, R., Elsley, S., Drumming together for change: A child’s right to quality care in Sub-Saharan Africa, Glasgow: SOS Children’s Villages International, CELCIS at the University of Strathclyde, University of Malawi, 2014; (f)Human Rights Watch, Abandoned by the State:Violence, Neglect, and Isolation for Children with Disabilities in Russian Orphanages, 2014, p5; (g)European Commission, Segregation of Roma Children in Education: Addressing Structural Discrimination through the Race Equality Directive, 2007, p6. http://www.non-discrimination.net/content/media/Segregation%20of%20Roma%20Children%20in%20Education%20_en.pdf[accessed 31 October 2014]; (h) Figure cited by Csaky 2009 from: The Guardian ‘From India with Love’ July 2007 http://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/jul/26/india.vivgroskop [accessed 31 October 2014]
- Bowlby J (1988). A Secure Base: Parent-Child Attachment and Healthy Human Development. London: Routledge; Rutter, M (Jan/Feb 2002). Nature, nurture and development: From evangelism through science towards policy and practice. Child Development; Perry, B (2001), Understanding the Effects of Maltreatment on Early Brain Development. US Department of Health and Human Services; 4 Glaser, D (1995). Emotionally abusive experiences. In Assessment of Parenting: Psychiatric and Psychological Contributions (eds P Reder & C Lucey), pp. 73-86.London: Routledge; Nelson, C, Zeanah, C et al (2007). Cognitive Recovery in Socially Deprived Young Children: The Bucharest Early Intervention Project Science 21 December 2007:vol 318, no 5858); The Risk of Harm to Young Children in Institutional Care 2009 Kevin Browne (gives summary of studies p14).
- Csaky C, Why Care Matters, Family for Every Child 2014 - refers to a range of studies.
- Pashkina (2001)..Sotsial’noe obespechenie, 11:42-45. Cited in Holm-Hansen J, Kristofersen LB, Myrvold TM eds. Orphans in Russia. Oslo, Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research (NIBR-rapport 2003:1).
- Mulheir G - http://esharp.eu/be-our-guest/64-europe-leads-in-freeing-children-from-institutions/.
- "Our Trustees". Lumos. 2013-02-25.