J.K. Rowling launches Lumos USA with touching plea to end institutionalization

J.K. Rowling and Lumos today announced the launch of Lumos USA, which will be based out of New York City. In addition to the launch, Lumos USA will be hosting a sweepstakes for all donors of $10 or more with a chance to win prizes, including signed copies of Very Good Lives, a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida, and a trip to San Diego Comic-Con International in California.

Rowling announced the launch by posting on her Facebook page:

J.K. Rowling has written a personal, thought-provoking and copyright free account on why we need to see an end the…

Posted by J.K. Rowling on Thursday, April 9, 2015

Jo’s article, which can be read in full here, outlines the necessity of ending institutionalization of children around the world. She writes movingly of her visits to orphanages around the world, recounting one of her first visits:

My visit to the foreign orphanage was not supposed to be upsetting, or not as far as the staff was concerned. The woman in charge beamed as the three[-]year[-]olds swarmed around the strange visitor, eager for her attention. Those children neither knew nor cared about Harry Potter; all they craved was affection. We could not speak each other’s language, but that did not deter the little girl with the shaven head. She crawled into my lap and beamed up at me. If you have ever had a totally unfamiliar toddler cling to you in the evident hope that you might simply take them away with you, you will probably understand what it felt like to detach her fingers and leave.

Her recollections are heartbreaking and hard to read but emphasize the vital importance of the work Lumos is doing.

My worst memories, though, are of the vast impersonal children’s home in Eastern Europe where I saw three children with severe cerebral palsy sharing a single bed. They were tube fed, washed and otherwise totally ignored. An English-speaking nurse confided in me that another young disabled girl in her care kept asking for her mother. When the little girl’s pleas became too much, the nurse would leave work and telephone the ward, pretending to be the mother who had been convinced that no contact was in the best interests of a child who was begging for her.

She concludes by highlighting the positive change Lumos has already affected but stresses that there is so much more work to be done. It is within our power to help end these children’s suffering.

Lumos has a single, simple goal: to end the institutionalization of children worldwide by 2050. This is ambitious but achievable. It is also essential. Eight million voiceless children are currently suffering globally under a system that, according to all credible research, is indefensible. We owe them far, far better. We owe them families.

We’re sure the addition of Lumos USA will be an important step in achieving this goal. Be sure to read the full press release below, including information on how you can enter the sweepstakes.

J.K. Rowling lights up the Empire State Building to launch her children’s non-profit organization, Lumos USA


J.K. Rowling lights up the Empire State Building to launch her children’s non-profit organization, Lumos USA

The author was in New York to raise funds to help the eight million children in institutions and orphanages around the world, of whom over 80 per cent have living parents

J.K. Rowling today (April 9) lit up the iconic Empire State Building in New York to mark the launch of Lumos USA as part of the NGO’s global mission to bring light to the lives of eight million children living in orphanages and institutions around the world.

The world famous author came to America this week with the messages at the heart of Lumos’ work – that 80% of children in orphanages are not orphans but have been separated from their families due to poverty, disability, conflict and disasters; and that families are the best place for them to grow up. And in a bid to help shed light on this issue, she has written a personal and thought-provoking article on the subject, which is available at www.jkrowling.com

Named after the light-giving spell in the Harry Potter books, Lumos is an international non-profit organization that helps countries reform their services for disadvantaged children, moving from systems based on residential institutions and orphanages that separate children from families to services which support them to stay together in the community.

Lumos’ mission draws on decades of scientific evidence, including recently published work by Harvard University, showing that institutions have a negative impact on children’s physical, emotional and intellectual development by depriving them of the close, individual care and attention parents provide within a family.

In launching Lumos USA, Patron J.K. Rowling said: “Children need families, and families need their children and I believe it is entirely possible, with concerted effort, to help to transform the way the world cares for disadvantaged children. We owe this to the eight million children living in orphanages around the world, most of whom do have parents and families who, given the right level of support, could care for them at home.”

After a decade working with governments in Central and Eastern Europe to help them to close down State-run institutions for children and create new services that support vulnerable children to stay with families, Lumos is now also working to address the use of largely privately-funded orphanages, which is increasing in many parts of the world. Lumos has recently begun to work in the Latin America and Caribbean region, focusing on Haiti, where more than 30,000 children live in orphanages - at least 80% of them NOT orphans.

Encouraging reform of the funding that supports orphanages is a key part of Lumos’ work. It has played an important role in influencing the way that European Union aid is now spent - to support community services for children and families, not to build or renovate institutions and orphanages. Lumos USA will build on this advocacy activity by working with US Government departments – including the US Agency for International Development – and bodies such as the World Bank to promote a similar funding principle. The right of children to live in families is one of the core principles of the US Government’s Action Plan on Children in Adversity.

Georgette Mulheir, the Chief Executive of Lumos – who last year was named by a prestigious US academic website as one of the world’s 30 most influential social workers – said: “The USA, its citizens and, indeed, the international community have a huge role to play to influence the agenda on children outside of family care. Foreign policy, development aid and individual giving can help shape the future for vulnerable children and their families in a sustainable way, ensuring that no child is denied the right to family life”.

The United Nations is currently creating a set of post-2015 ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) – a set of aspirations and principles, which will influence how billions of dollars in aid are used around the world. Early drafts have stressed the importance of child health, development, education, and protection, but do not recognize that a family is the only effective way of providing those vital elements.

In order to support Lumos’ campaign to draw attention to the omission of families within the SDGs, J.K. Rowling wrote privately in March to leading figures in the United Nations, urging them to recognize the vital role of families and include targets for a significant reduction of numbers of children outside family care in the SDGs.

To celebrate the launch of Lumos Foundation USA, Lumos is raising funds to reunite children with families. For the next month, Lumos USA will run an online sweepstakes giving every eligible US resident who donates over $10, the opportunity to win one of four generously donated prizes: two signed copies of J.K. Rowling’s ‘Very Good Lives’; a VIP trip for four to Universal Orlando Resort to experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter; and tickets to Comic Con in San Diego in July 2015.

One hundred percent of all donations to Lumos go directly towards its projects on the ground.

Lumos USA Sweepstakes - to raise funds for reuniting children with families

Between now and May 10th Lumos USA is giving all donors of $10 or more the chance to win some fantastic prizes, all kindly donated in support of Lumos’ work to reunite families. Prizes include:

  • Two signed copies of the Very Good Lives book – the new release from Patron of Lumos USA J.K. Rowling, signed by the author herself. This brand new print version of her 2008 Harvard commencement speech deals with the issues of failure, and why imagination is so important, and contains anecdotes from the author’s own years as an undergraduate.
  • A trip for four to Universal Orlando Resort to experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, including the newly opened Hogwarts Express and Diagon Alley, plus Hogsmeade. This trip of a lifetime includes 4 days’ park to park admission at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, an exclusive VIP tour of both parks plus early bird admission, for the complete VIP experience.  This includes Business class flights if available for (4) people to Orlando from anywhere in the Continental U.S.
  • Two tickets and 3 nights accommodation to Comic-Con International in San Diego on 9-12 July 2015 where you can meet-and-greet with some of the top name artists, writers and visionaries who bring DC Entertainment comic books to life.

For full terms and conditions visit www.wearelumos.org/get-invovled/lumos-usa-sweepstakes

About Lumos

Lumos is an international non-profit organization, founded by the author J.K. Rowling, which works to end the institutionalization of children around the world and helps to support the 8 million children in institutions worldwide regain their right to a family life.  Despite living in so-called ‘orphanages’ the majority of children who live there are not orphans but placed there as a result of grinding poverty, disability and discrimination.  Lumos works with countries to transform education, health and social care systems so children can be moved from institutions and supported in the families and the community.

In six years, Lumos has

  • Supported 14,280 children to move from harmful institutions to families or supported independent living;
  • Prevented 11,000 babies and infants from serious harm or admission to institutions;
  • Saved the lives of 935 children suffering from malnutrition, severe neglect or a lack of access to medical treatment;
  • Trained 23,000 social workers, medical professionals, teachers, carers, civil servants, and policy makers;
  • Helped redirect US$500 million that was planned to be spent on orphanages and institutions and ensured that it was spent on community-based services instead.

The Lumos model of ‘deinstitutionalization’ combines advocacy at international level, support for national governments and demonstration work on the ground to show that reform can be achieved.

Lumos has recently started working with the government and other agencies and NGOs in Haiti, where at least 30,000 children live in orphanages, 80% of them with living parents. Lumos will focus on two orphanages – helping to save the lives and stabilise the health of very vulnerable children and then preparing them to return to family life.

Information about children in institutions

The UN estimates that around the world there are approximately 8 million children living in care institutions.

Institutionalization causes harmful effects to the child, including impaired early brain development, leading to delayed cognitive and physical development, in some cases, resulting in the onset of an intellectual disability. Children with a moderate to severe intellectual disability have even fewer prospects for escaping the vicious cycle of institutionalization. Analysis of admissions to and discharges from children’s institutions in a number of countries demonstrates that the majority of these children, once they reach adulthood, are transferred to an institution for adults.

Scientific and other research – including authoritative work at Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child - shows that consistent loving adult engagement with a young child helps strengthen neural electrical connections in the brain, shaping its development. A key failing of orphanages is that low ratios of adults to children cannot ensure the sustained adult attention children need to grow and prosper.

Research has also shown that reuniting children with families makes sound economic sense. In most cases, it is far cheaper to support a family in the community than to keep a child in an orphanage. The institutionalization of children also places long-term economic burdens on societies. Institutionalized children suffer more ill health than the wider population and, as adults, are more likely than those raised in families, to drop out of school, face unemployment, or worse, have a criminal record, become involved in prostitution or commit suicide.

For more information on the scale of institutionalization and the harm it causes, read Lumos factsheets by following the links above.

Jessica J.

I've been making magic at MuggleNet since 2012, when I first joined the staff as a News intern. I've never wavered from the declaration in my childhood journal, circa October 2000: "I LOVE Harry Potter! If I clean my room, my mom says she'll make me a dinner a wizard would love!" Proud Gryffindor; don't hate.