In 2004, writer J.K. Rowling founded an organization called Lumos to prevent "poor, ethnic minority, or disabled" children from being unfairly placed in orphanages.  

In July 2017, the foundation sent a tweet encouraging followers to think before contributing to institutions that house children en masse.

In response, celebrity chef José Andrés proposed a solution: People should help out in person instead of (or in addition to) donating.


"What donors should do is visit the orphanage and volunteer at them, and if possible adopt," Andrés wrote. "We support one in Haiti and my family volunteers!"

Rowling replied to Andrés from her personal account, explaining how support from wealthy patrons frequently contributes to the abuse suffered by children in orphanages and why, despite good intentions, taking a more active role might not be the answer.

Disability rights advocates praised Rowling's advice.

While not all children are able to live with their family, Rowling says there's a better solution than foisting them on frequently neglectful group homes.

The author believes that working to end the cycles of poverty that force parents into a choice to give their children away rather than supporting the institutions that provide an insufficient (and frequently detrimental) backstop is the best, albeit more complex, solution.

In other words, orphanages address the symptom of a problem, not the problem itself.

An orphanage in Afghanistan. Photo by Noorullah Shirzada/Getty Images.

Several statistics back her up.

A January 2017 study by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health found that 80% of children in Cambodian orphanages indeed have at least one living parent.

Additionally, a 2012 analysis concluded that children reared from a young age in substandard group living situations are at a higher risk for neurological, cognitive, and behavioral problems. While well-run institutions do exist, examples of gross abuse and neglect are sadly commonplace. (Warning: Link contains graphic, upsetting images.)

Lumos works to reunite children with their families and channel funds away from orphanages and into local community services that support parents, making it easier for them to raise their own children in the first place.

Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images.

For well-intentioned donors, Rowling believes giving money to institutions that provide little support for children beyond simple housing and a baseline education should be the last resort.

Helping prevent children from going there should be the first.

This article originally appeared on November 11, 2015


Remember those beloved Richard Scarry books from when you were a kid?

Like a lot of people, I grew up reading them. And now, I read them to my kids.

The best!

If that doesn't ring a bell, perhaps this character from the "Busytown" series will. Classic!

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Scarry was an incredibly prolific children's author and illustrator. He created over 250 books during his career. His books were loved across the world — over 100 million were sold in many languages.

But here's something you may not have known about these classics: They've been slowly changing over the years.

Don't panic! They've been changing in a good way.

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Photo by Maxim Hopman on Unsplash

The Sam Vimes "Boots" Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness explains one way the rich get richer.

Any time conversations about wealth and poverty come up, people inevitably start talking about boots.

The standard phrase that comes up is "pull yourself up by your bootstraps," which is usually shorthand for "work harder and don't ask for or expect help." (The fact that the phrase was originally used sarcastically because pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps is literally, physically impossible is rarely acknowledged, but c'est la vie.) The idea that people who build wealth do so because they individually work harder than poor people is baked into the American consciousness and wrapped up in the ideal of the American dream.

A different take on boots and building wealth, however, paints a more accurate picture of what it takes to get out of poverty.

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"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937) and actor Peter Dinklage.

On Tuesday, Upworthy reported that actor Peter Dinklage was unhappy with Disney’s decision to move forward with a live-action version of “Snow White and the Seven Drawfs” starring Rachel Zegler.

Dinklage praised Disney’s inclusive casting of the “West Side Story” actress, whose mother is of Colombian descent, but pointed out that, at the same time, the company was making a film that promotes damaging stereotypes about people with dwarfism.

"There's a lot of hypocrisy going on, I've gotta say, from being somebody who's a little bit unique," Dinklage told Marc Maron on his “WTF” podcast.

"Well, you know, it's really progressive to cast a—literally no offense to anybody, but I was a little taken aback by, they were very proud to cast a Latino actress as Snow White," Dinklage said, "but you're still telling the story of 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.' Take a step back and look at what you're doing there.”

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