Lumos (charity)

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Lumos (charity) logo.png
PurposeChildren/young people's welfare; health/education/social care; family support
  • London, UK (head office)
Region served
Founder and president
J. K. Rowling
Main organ
Board of Trustees, chaired by Neil Blair
WebsiteOfficial website

Lumos, formerly known as Children’s High Level Group, is an international non-governmental charity (NGO) founded by British author of Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling, which promotes an end to the institutionalisation of children worldwide.


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 the problem. She said: "I looked at that photograph[1] of the boy in his cage bed and felt he had absolutely no voice. This touched me as nothing else had 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 realization to me and that's where the whole thing started."[2] As a result, she co-founded the Children’s High Level Group with Emma Nicholson to address the problem of institutionalised and disadvantaged children in Eastern Europe. In 2010, the Childrens' High Level Group was relaunched as Lumos. The name Lumos comes from a light-giving spell in the Harry Potter books.

Lumos and other organisations have worked to encourage the European Commission to establish regulations that state that fundings to EU Member States must 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 'deinstitutionalization' (DI) had already helped divert more than €367 million of EU funding away from institutions towards community services.[3]

Lumos works on a global scale, particularly promoting family care and helping authorities to close down institutions and orphanages. It is a member of the Global Alliance for Children, an international grouping of governmental agencies, private foundations and NGOs which are concerned with children's interests.[citation needed]

According to a conversation between Lauren Laverne and J. K. Rowling, as of 2016, Lumos has put more than 17,000 children out of institutions. They have set up foster care, small group homes where children live in a family-type situation, and found adoptive parents in the child's community.[4]


Lumos points out that most children in orphanages and other institutions still have parents, who are usually not able to raise them due to extreme poverty, often caused by natural disasters, wars, discrimination or disability.

If local governments were able to provide basic infrastructure, rudimentary living conditions and job opportunities most children could be looked after in their own families. If this is not possible support should be provided to place them in foster or adoptive families or in small group homes.[5]

The best-run orphanages are not able to replace a family-like setting where the child can rely on and establish an emotional relationship with one or two caregivers.

Raising children in an orphanage or other institution harms their health and development. It increases their exposure to abuse and puts them at risk of future criminal activity.

Children in orphanages are isolated. They are isolated from their families and their communities. They are often hidden behind walls and segregated.

Even when orphanages and institutions are set up with good intentions, care is tailored to the needs of the institution, not the child. Staff struggle to cope with high numbers of children, particularly those with complex needs. Physical contact, care and attention become a luxury.

Good care has the child’s needs at its heart – whether that’s in a family or a family-like setting.

— quote from the Lumos website [6]

Lumos gives a number of key factors that do harm to a child raised in an institution:

Children are arbitrarily separated from their parents (and often their siblings) and raised by personnel who are paid to care for them, and who usually work shifts

Large numbers of unrelated children live together in the same building or compound

The child does not have the opportunity to form a healthy emotional attachment to one or two primary caregivers

The setting is isolated from the broader community and is distinctly identifiable as being outside the broader community (by the use of high walls or fences, barbed wire, guards on the gate, provision of school on site, inter alia)

Contact with the birth and extended family is not actively encouraged or supported, and is at times discouraged

Care is generally impersonal and the needs of the organisation come before the individual needs of the child

This often leads to a range of neglectful behaviours on the part of personnel (eg., children are not fed sufficiently, babies are left in soiled nappies for long periods) and the use of restrictive or dangerous measures to control children’s behaviour (such as severe physical punishment, tying up children or the use of psychotropic drugs, inter alia).

— quote from the Lumos website [7]

Lumos lists typical institutions that are generally regarded as being not conducive to children:

Orphanages; Any residential settings for babies and very young children; Residential special schools; Large children’s homes; Centres for unaccompanied migrant/refugee children; Social care homes (adults and children with disabilities housed together); Secure units; Psychiatric wards; Paediatric wards (long stay); Prisons.

— quote from the Lumos website [7]

Board of trustees[edit]

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.[8]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Why Are Children in Orphanages and Other Institutions?, site:, visited in march 2019
  6. ^ The Problem with Orphanages and Other Institutions, site:, visited in march 2019
  7. ^ a b What Is an 'Institution' or 'Orphanage'?, site:, visited in march 2019
  8. ^ "Our Trustees". Lumos. 25 February 2013.

External links[edit]