Ken Budd’s Nov. 10 Washington Post Magazine article, “The volunteer’s dilemma,” acknowledged the compassion of many orphanage supporters and operators. But it understated the harm to millions of children caught in the deeply flawed global response to children in need.

Most children in orphanages have a living parent, who, because of poverty and lack of access to services, consigned their child to institutional care. No parents make the decision to send their child to an orphanage easily; most believe they are sending children to better education and better services, and many even visit their children regularly. Children with disabilities are particularly at risk of institutionalization because of the additional support families need for their care at home and lack of services. No orphanage can replace the individual bonds and connections of a nurturing and safe family. Research shows that on average, for every three months in an orphanage, an infant/toddler loses one month in development.

Countries such as Kenya are moving toward strengthening families and communities instead of orphanages. My organization and others are helping these countries transition their child-care systems so that children grow up in families and communities. We should work to keep children out of institutions and in families.

Anne Smith, Baltimore

The writer is Catholic Relief Services’ global director for Changing the Way We Care.