European Union prioritises quality care for children in its external action

European Union prioritises quality care for children in its external action


European Commissioner Neven Mimica and Lumos founder J.K. Rowling have called for international collaboration to address the issue of the high numbers of children – at least eight million – who are suffering abuse, harm and neglect in orphanages and institutions around the world.

Speaking at a conference organised jointly by the European Commission and her international children’s organisation, Lumos, J.K. Rowling highlighted that the orphanage industry is a multi-million euro global industry where the welfare of children is neglected in favour of profit, and that even well-run institutions have a detrimental impact on a child’s health and development.

J.K. Rowling said, "Children all over the world are being severely harmed, physically and psychologically, because their primary right to a family has been taken away. Even those orphanages that are well-run, have good material conditions and qualified staff, can't replace the individual love, support and stability children get from a family. Donors across the world, many with the best of intentions, continue to fund orphanages that result in life-long physical and psychological damage to children. We need to stop money going to institutions and redirect it towards alternatives that strengthen families and communities – creating a long-term, sustainable system of care."

Conference co-host Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to prioritise support for quality care for children and promote the transition from institutional to community-based care in the EU's partner countries, in line with children’s best interests.

Neven Mimica said, "We know that children thrive best in families and communities, not in orphanages and institutions that are not providing the love and care every child needs. The EU plays a key role in ensuring that no child is left behind. Prevention, inclusion, quality services and awareness are the key elements needed to succeed, and to counter child abuse and neglect. It's not because it’s difficult that we should not dare!"

Christos Stylianides, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, said, "Children in emergency situations are exposed to threats, such as the loss of or separation from their families, sexual exploitation, trafficking, and recruitment into armed groups. Our response is to ensure the protection needs of children are met, by putting children, girls and boys, at the centre of decisions affecting them and ensuring their voices are heard."

Georgette Mulheir, Lumos CEO, added, "Children are being traded, mistreated, sexually abused and, in the worst cases, killed for profit as part of the global orphanage industry. We must work together urgently to move away from systems that expose children to all forms of abuse and neglect in the name of care and protection."

"The EU has demonstrated great leadership by shifting funding away from institutions for children in EU member and pre-accession states. It is now in a position to build on that and become a global leader in funding families across the world, instead of orphanages. The world currently faces the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War and protecting unaccompanied refugee children is a particular challenge. We must all work together to end the detention in institutions of refugee children and ensure all children can flourish in families."

The conference, No Child Left Behind, took place on 15 June 2018 to raise awareness of the eight million children in orphanages and institutions globally, and to promote global leadership in tackling the institutionalisation of children.



About Lumos

Lumos is an international organisation committed to making family care for all children a global reality by 2050.

Eight million children live in orphanages and other institutions globally. More than 80% are not orphans but have been separated from their families because of poverty and discrimination. Orphanages harm children, exposing them to all forms of abuse and trafficking.

Lumos rescues children from orphanages and reunites them with families. We change education, health and social care systems so all children and families can access the care and protection they deserve. Because only families provide the building blocks children need to thrive and reach their full potential.

Founded by J.K. Rowling and named after the spell in the Harry Potter books that brings light to the darkest of places, Lumos reveals the hidden children and works with governments, donors, communities and other partners to transform systems of care to bring them home. Find out more:

For more information, interview and footage requests please contact Chloe Kay +44 (0)7387 326442 /


About the EU action

Mental and physical integrity of children are at the centre of all EU reforms, within and outside European borders.

The EU’s commitment in its external action is reaffirmed in the European Consensus on Development and the 2017 Guidelines for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child: Leave No Child Behind in line with international standards and treaties. These guidelines provide practical support to all EU actors to champion children's rights by helping partner countries to strengthen their own child protection systems.

Together with UNICEF, the EU also released the Toolkit: Integrating Child Rights in Development Cooperation to guide all EU development actors on how to mainstream children's rights in budgeting, policymaking, law-making and programming, in areas such as infrastructure, energy, health, education, water and sanitation, and justice.

The EU is one of the main providers of funding for children's survival and development, protection and participation. From 2007–2013, the EU supported over 4,000 actions for children across 142 countries, with EUR 8.5 billion. Sub-Saharan Africa was the largest recipient, followed by Asia and Latin America.

In 2018 the EU launched a first specific EUR 13 million call for proposals on quality alternative care and de-institutionalisation, in line with UN guidelines. The European Commission is currently evaluating the applications received.

EU communication focal points:

Carlos Martin Ruiz De Gordejuela, T: +32 2 296 53 22 | E:

Christina Wunder, T: +32 2 299 22 56 | E: