I visited an orphanage today. I had been planning on volunteering in one, so it was handy when a friend of mine here happened to already be going to one a few times a week. I found someone to take care of my boys so now I can go too.
I knew what I was getting into because I've done a reasonable amount of research on orphanages in Central Asia because we've been looking into adopting from Kazakhstan. The awful stories you might have heard about the orphanages in Romania don't really happen here. The children were clean and well-cared for, with some stimulation, reasonably good food, and kind caregivers. There were about 3 babies for each "mother" today. Some of the babies are perfectly healthy, others have various problems ranging from minor to serious. I am not sure when/if children with disabilities are segregated in Kyrgyzstan.
The baby houses are for babies and children to age four. If they have not been adopted by then, they are sent to other orphanages for older children. I don't know as much about those orphanages, but I do know that a child's situation gets worse the longer he or she is in one of the orphanages.
Of course, there are problems (quite a few in fact, as this article points out- although many of the problems it addresses are more specific to older children), but overall, I thought the baby house we visited did a good job with what they have to work with. Again- I'm not saying there aren't major problems, like corruption and theft within the orphanage itself.
About 15 of the children are adopted locally from the orphanage we visited. It has never had an international adoption, although I understand that babies have been adopted internationally from Kyrgyzstan. Actually, most healthy babies are domestically adopted in Kyrgyzstan. It's the babies with a variety of problems that need the international adoptions. For all the skepticism about international adoption (and I share some of it), there truly is a great need in many places in the world for international adoption.
The babies were charming, as babies always are. We took four outside to play a bit since there rarely is an opportunity to get them out (it's not very easy to take 3 babies out by yourself). My friend goes specifically to help a little boy with FAS who has some serious problems. His best hope is to go to the West on a humanitarian visa to get the care he needs. He is doing much better than he was a few months ago because of the extra care given him by a few women who come in to work with him.
Here is an article on abandoned children in Kyrgyzstan, and don't miss this article on orphanages in Uzbekistan. It is disturbing in parts. The part about the orphanages begins a little way down the page.