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Lumos, formerly known as Children’s High Level Group, is an international non-governmental charity (NGO) founded by British author of Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling, which promotes an end to the institutionalisation of children worldwide.

Lumos (charity) logo.png
Formation 2005
Type NGO/Charity
Purpose Children/young people's welfare; health/education/social care; family support
  • London, UK (head office)
Region served
Founder and president
J. K. Rowling
Chief executive
Georgette Mulheir
Main organ
Board of Trustees, chaired by Neil Blair



Lumos is registered in England and Wales as charity number 1112575.[1] Lumos gathered 80 years of research proving that it is essential for a child's normal development to have a family and to have sustained one-on-one loving care. There are an estimated eight million children that are currently institutionalised worldwide and 80% of them are not orphans. Lumos is dedicated to transform the lives of those eight million of disadvantaged children who live in institutions and so-called orphanages around the world.[2] Although low estimates indicate that anywhere between 2 and 8 million children are in institutional care, J. K. Rowling said in a conversation with Lauren Laverne that there are at least 8 million and that is only the children that were officially registered in the institutions. She also mentioned that children who are raised in institutions often suffer developmental delays, stunted growth, psychological trauma.

Lumos uses the phrase 'so-called' when referring to orphanages because the vast majority of children are not orphans but are in institutions because their parents face extreme poverty; when children have physical or intellectual disabilities and their parents cannot afford treatment; or because they are from a socially excluded group. When parents are not supported in the community, these factors often lead to the break-up of families. Parents who can't afford to feed, clothe or send a child to school are given little choice. Poverty is recognised as the main driver of child institutionalisation in most countries.

Facts and figuresEdit

  • 52% of children in institutions in Sierra Leone were there due to poverty. [3]
  • 74% of children in a sample study in Moldova were placed due to poverty. [4]
  • In a study of maternity hospitals in Europe, staff in 75% of hospitals stated poverty as a possible cause of abandonment.[5]
  • Over 40% of children in institutions in North East Sri Lanka were placed due to poverty.[6]
  • Hospital staff at times encourage parents to give up babies. Parents can’t afford time or specialist carers to look after their child. There is no inclusive education so a residential school far from home is the only option. Children with disabilities are viewed as a problem to be dealt with away from mainstream society. In some African countries they are considered unlucky or cursed. [7]
  • 45% of children in Russian institutions have a disability.[8]
  • In Europe, Roma children with no disabilities are often incorrectly placed in remedial ‘special schools’ for mentally disabled children, according to a European Commission report. [9]
  • 90% of the 11 million 'abandoned or orphaned' children in India are girls.[10]

According to Lumos more than 80 years of research has shown that, despite the best intentions of many people who support and work in them, institutions harm the health and development of children.[11] Separating children from their parents and placing them in large residential institutions deprives them of the love, care, and consistent caregiver engagement they need to grow, prosper, and to reach their full potential – physically, intellectually, and emotionally. Research suggests that children with intellectual disabilities can be particularly at risk of failing to thrive – to the extent of malnutrition and death – through a lack of sustained, specialist care and engagement. Life outcomes for institutionalised children are often poor.[12] One study found that young adults raised in institutions are 6 times more likely to have been abused, 10 times more likely to be involved in prostitution, 40 times more likely to have a criminal record, and 500 times more likely to take their own lives than their peers.[13] Lumos' ambition is that by 2050, they will have ended institutionalisation globally.

According to Lumos they are needed anywhere that has been a victim of a natural disaster and everywhere there is poverty. They cannot dismantle the system because it takes a lot of money to retrain workers in these institutions so that they can do community-based care (health nurse or work in a day-care centre) and build a better system.

The charity states that they are not trying to take the livelihood of the people working in orphanages away, but to show them how they can make this work for the children and for themselves. Lumos also works with government to make sure that once the institutions are closed they cannot re-open.


In 2004, after seeing an article in The Sunday Times about children being kept in caged beds in institutions, J. K. Rowling felt compelled to address what she saw as a terrible problem. As a result, she founded the charity that became Lumos. She said: "I looked at that photograph[14] of the boy in his cage bed and felt he had absolutely no voice. This touched me as nothing else had because I can think of nobody more powerless than a child, perhaps, with a mental or a physical disability, locked away from their family. It was a very shocking realization to me and that's where the whole thing started." [15]

As a result, she co-founded the Children’s High Level Group with Emma Nicholson to address the problem of institutionalised and disadvantaged children in Eastern Europe. In January 2010, Emma Nicholson resigned as Co-Chair of the board of the English charity. She continues as Chair of the Romanian charity (the Asociatia Children's High Level Group), in which capacity she is furthering the work she began there and directing its resources to existing and new projects.

In 2010, the Childrens' High Level Group was relaunched as Lumos. The name Lumos comes from a light-giving spell in the Harry Potter books. Lumos began its work by focusing on countries in Central and Eastern Europe, where there has been a culture – a legacy of the former Soviet communist system – of placing vulnerable children in institutions, rather than supporting families to stay together with quality health, education, and social services in the community.

Lumos and other organisations have worked to encourage the European Commission to establish regulations that state that fundings to EU Member States must, from 2014, be used for community services, not to build or renovate residential institutions. Even before the regulations were passed, as a result of years of advocacy and awareness-raising, this principle of funding supporting 'deinstitutionalization' (DI) had already helped divert more than €367 million of EU funding away from institutions towards community services.[16]

Lumos now works on a global scale – particularly promoting family-based care alternatives and helping authorities to reform their systems and close down institutions and orphanages. It is a key member of the Global Alliance for Children – an international grouping of governmental agencies, private foundations and NGOs – which is dedicated to improving the lives of children in adversity and to ensuring that all children reach their full potential.

According to a conversation between Lauren Laverne and J. K. Rowling, as of 2016, Lumos has put more than 17,000 children out of institutions. They have set up high quality foster care, small group homes where children live in a family-type situation, and found adoptive parents in the child's community so that they receive that one-on-one loving care they need. Lumos has prevented 15,000 children to go into institutions. And they are working in more and more countries as they go.


Lumos collaborates with governments at all levels (professionals, carers, and other NGOs), faith-based groups, as well as communities, families, and children to help transform outdated systems that arbitrarily separate children from their families. It shares expertise and experience and organises training in the skills needed to run family-focused, community-based care systems. In particular, it emphasises the importance of demonstration projects in areas or regions to prove that deinstitutionalization – a complex set of challenges – can be achieved in practice.

Lumos has teams in countries including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. As part of its global focus on children in institutions, it has also opened a US office and is currently scoping work in Latin America and the Caribbean.


In 2007, J. K. Rowling auctioned a copy of one of the seven special editions of her book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which raised £1.95 million for Lumos. In December 2008, the book was widely published in aid of the charity and became the fastest-selling book of that year.

In 2016, Lumos organised the "We are Lumos" worldwide campaign. They sold 'We do not need magic to transform our world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already' T-shirts, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child books, and tickets to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Board of trusteesEdit

Neil Blair is the Chair of the Board of Trustees, who include: Kazem Behbehani (to December 2014), Lucy Smith, Rachel Wilson, Sandy Loder, Rita Dattani, Nick Crichton, Danny Cohen and Mark Smith.[17]


  1. ^ "Charity Commission". Lumos. 25 February 2013. 
  2. ^ (UNICEF estimates that more than 2 million children are in institutional care around the world, but this is an outdated figure based on a limited country scan, and UNICEF frequently acknowledges it as an underestimate. UNICEF (2009). Progress for children: A report card on child protection. Two other reports put the figure at 8 million; the latter even consider this to be an underestimate. See Pinheiro, PS (2006). Report of the independent expert for the United Nations study on violence against children; Save the Children UK (2009) Keeping children out of harmful institutions: Why we should be investing in family-based care.)
  3. ^ D Lamin,‘Improving the care and protection of children in Sierra Leone’, UNICEF, 2008. Cited in: Csáky, C., Keeping Children Out of Harmful Institutions: Why we should be investing in family-based care, Save the Children, London, 2009, p20
  4. ^ Lumos Foundation Moldova, Strategic Review of the system of caring for vulnerable children: Republic of Moldova, unpublished, 2014
  5. ^ The University of Nottingham, Child Abandonment and its Prevention in Europe, The European Commission’s Daphne Programme, 2012, p11. http://www.bettercarenetwork. org/BCN/details.asp?id=30091&themeID=1001&topicID=1006 [accessed 30 October 2014]
  6. ^ Home Truths: Children’s Rights in Institutional Care in Sri Lanka, Save the Children in Sri Lanka, 2005, p. 26
  7. ^ Chiwaula, L., Dobson, R., Elsley, S., Drumming together for change: A child’s right to quality care in Sub-Saharan Africa, Glasgow: SOS Children’s Villages International, CELCIS at the University of Strathclyde, University of Malawi, 2014
  8. ^ Human Rights Watch, Abandoned by the State:Violence, Neglect, and Isolation for Children with Disabilities in Russian Orphanages, 2014, p5
  9. ^ European Commission, Segregation of Roma Children in Education: Addressing Structural Discrimination through the Race Equality Directive, 2007, p6.[accessed 31 October 2014]
  10. ^ Figure cited by Csaky 2009 from: The Guardian ‘From India with Love’ July 2007 [accessed 31 October 2014]
  11. ^ Bowlby J (1988). A Secure Base: Parent-Child Attachment and Healthy Human Development. London: Routledge; Rutter, M (Jan/Feb 2002). Nature, nurture and development: From evangelism through science towards policy and practice. Child Development; Perry, B (2001), Understanding the Effects of Maltreatment on Early Brain Development. US Department of Health and Human Services; 4 Glaser, D (1995). Emotionally abusive experiences. In Assessment of Parenting: Psychiatric and Psychological Contributions (eds P Reder & C Lucey), pp. 73–86.London: Routledge; Nelson, C, Zeanah, C et al (2007). Cognitive Recovery in Socially Deprived Young Children: The Bucharest Early Intervention Project Science 21 December 2007:vol 318, no 5858); The Risk of Harm to Young Children in Institutional Care 2009 Kevin Browne (gives summary of studies p14). 
  12. ^ Csaky C, Why Care Matters, Family for Every Child 2014 – refers to a range of studies. 
  13. ^ Pashkina (2001)..Sotsial'noe obespechenie, 11:42–45. Cited in Holm-Hansen J, Kristofersen LB, Myrvold TM eds. Orphans in Russia. Oslo, Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research (NIBR-rapport 2003:1). 
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Our Trustees". Lumos. 25 February 2013. 

External linksEdit