Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to your questions about the Martin James Foundation below. If there are any questions missing,
please contact us to let us know and we will add them.

Q : What is the Martin James Foundation?

A : We are a global Foundation of over 300 foster care and other child care practitioners, with over 30 years of collective experience of successful delivery of innovative, quality foster care and family strengthening services. Our roots and legacy enable us to empower change worldwide through global and local partnerships, leveraging our extensive knowledge, practitioner skills, experience, and proven best practice models. Collectively we’re uniquely placed to support children who have been separated and displaced through family breakdown or forced migration.

MJF comprises three entities with a global reach. The MJF UK team are responsible for international programmes, partnerships, and fundraising. FosterTalk, is the Centre of Excellence for MJF. They are the UK foster care services provider supporting 30,000 carers every year. Key Assets are not-for-profit affiliates of MJF that provide high-quality foster care and family strengthening services in Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand.

Q : What is an Institution?

A : While there are several definitions for ‘institution’ when referring to children. Browne’s definition states that an institution for children is defined as “a group living arrangement for more than ten children, without parents or surrogate parents, in which care is provided by a much smaller number of paid adult carers.” (Browne, 2009:1)

It is important to distinguish institutional care from residential care. “Residential care implies an organised, routine and impersonal structure to the living arrangements for children (e.g., all children sleep, eat and toilet at the same time) and a professional relationship, rather than parental relationship, between the adults and children.” (Browne, 2009:1)

Q : What is the problem with institutions?

A : Over 80 years of research demonstrates that growing up in an orphanage harms children's physical, emotional, and mental health and well-being and these effects can last a lifetime.

Despite this research, an estimated 8 million children and young people worldwide live in orphanages, and 80% of them have a living parent.

Institutional care should be a last resort for children separated from their parents, following family support, community support, and fostering.

We are committed to supporting children to grow up and thrive in a safe, secure, and loving home and not institutions or orphanages.

Q : I financially support orphanages. Should I stop?

A : While we know that orphanages cause harm, immediately cancelling support without an alternative plan and the appropriate assessments could place children in an even more harmful situation.

We suggest you could start by exploring community-based alternatives that support keeping families together or family-based alternative care.

It's also worth considering the necessity of placing children in orphanages in the first place. It's likely that if gatekeeping systems and family supports are strengthened, family separation can be prevented, making orphanages unnecessary.

Q : What is the difference between an institution and an orphanage?

A : Within the international sector, the word ‘institution’ for children refers to a residential care facility for children. It can include but is not limited to orphanages, social care homes, prisons, large residential homes, residential schools. So an orphanage is a type of institution for children.

Q : What is alternative care?

A : Alternative care generally refers to any arrangement, informal or formal, temporary or permanent for a child without their parents. care settings without parental care, as well as actions to prevent family breakdown and separation of children as outlined in the UN Guidelines (2009).

The UN Guidelines for Alternative Care of Children state that there are two fundamental principles enshrined in the Alternative Care of Children guidelines.
“NECESSITY” – that alternative care is needed.
“SUITABILITY” – that when alternative care is required, it must be provided in a timely and appropriate manner.

Q : What is the alternative to institutions and orphanages?

A : Prevention of family breakdown and separation needs to be prioritised to avoid having children entering orphanages in the first place. When this is not possible, research shows that quality family-based care has better outcomes for children and communities than institutions. With the proper supports in place, children return to their birth families, or extended families through kinship care, or join a loving family through foster care.

Q : What is deinstitutionalisation?

A : Deinstitutionalisation or DI is a process that helps transition children out of large institutions, including orphanages and into family-based care.

Q : I’m interested in featuring Martin James Foundation in a story or interview. How can I get in touch?

A : Please contact for all media inquiries.

Q : Where can I give feedback?

A : Please visit our Contact Us page to share any feedback, including complaints and safeguarding concerns.

There are many ways you can join us in making sure children grow up in homes and not institutions or orphanages.