BANGKOK, 20 April 2023 – New data released today by UNICEF and Mahidol University estimates that 120,000 children are currently living in institutions across Thailand, with boarding schools and temples included alongside orphanages and other residential care settings. UNICEF Thailand is deeply concerned about the well-being of these children, given lack of information on many of their situations.
The new research “No Child Left Behind” finds that over 6,000 children are now living in Government-run residential care while 43,000 children – including 12,000 children with special needs – currently reside at Government boarding schools, and more than 33,000 child monks and 2,000 children live in temples. In addition, 39,000 – 77,000 children live in 700 private-run homes, most of them not registered with the government. Nearly half of all the private-run homes (48 per cent) are located in the northern Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces, the data reveals.
“The number of children living in these different forms of institutional care in Thailand is truly disturbing,” said Kyungsun Kim, UNICEF Representative for Thailand. “Living in residential or institution care, separated from family can leave lasting negative impact to children’s physical, cognitive and emotional development. That is because in these institutions, particularly crowded ones, children often aren’t able to form stable attachments, develop social skills, or get the physical and emotional support they would in a family environment.”
“What really concerns us is that there is no mechanism to monitor these residential or institutions. This means we have little idea about these children’s well-being. We don’t know how they are, how they live, the type and quality of care they receive, or the risk of violence, abuse and neglect they may face.”
UNICEF has long argued that placing children in institution care must be the option of last resort and only for the shortest period of time possible. Research has shown that children who grow up in institutional care have higher risks of experiencing poor outcomes in adulthood, such as mental health problems, lower educational attainment, and difficulties in forming and maintaining relationships.
UNICEF is calling on the Government to put in place effective mechanisms to monitor all institutional care facilities and ensure that children are safe and live in the protective and stimulating environments necessary for their development and well-being. At the same time, there must be stronger coordinated action among civil society organizations, private sector and key ministries including the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Culture so that oversight of different types of residential care, boarding schools and temples is improved.
Ultimately, every child deserves to grow up in a safe and loving family environment where institutional care is no longer necessary. UNICEF is working with partners to prevent family separation while promoting family-based alternative care including kinship care and foster families as the preferred options when living with parents is not safe or possible.
Early this year, Thailand announced its National Roadmap on Alternative Care in which the Royal Thai Government pledged to put more effort into strengthening family support, promoting family-based care and improving standards of care, as well as decreasing reliance on institutional care.
“Every child deserves to grow up with a family who loves and cares for them,” said Kim. “The national roadmap is certainly an important milestone for Thailand but the benefits will only reach children when it is fully implemented. UNICEF reaffirms our commitment to work with the Royal Thai Government and all partners to help create a society where every child in Thailand can grow up in a safe and loving family environment.”
Download policy brief: No Child Left Behind
Video: “voice nobody heard” https://drive.google.com/file/d/1y_YEPApglQv55J04qhOXRAAdH0qdDeJe/view
For more information, please contact:
Rudina Vojvoda, UNICEF Thailand, 065 472 1060 firstname.lastname@example.org
Nattha Keenapan, UNICEF Thailand, 086 616 7555, email@example.com