ORPHANS: Day 29 of 31 Days of Creative Caring

31days
 
By the most common definition, an orphan is a child whose parents are both dead. We sometimes call these children biological orphans. Their parents died from illness, accident, tragedy, war, etc. The highest numbers of biological orphans can be found in countries where war or AIDS are present.
 
There are also social orphans: children abandoned by their parents or whose living situations have necessitated their removal from the home. The cause may be as sad as a parent overcome by alcoholism, drug addiction, or psychological impairment … or as heinous as a parent who walks away without ever looking back, leaving a child (or multiple children) alone.
 
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans
and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

(James 1:27)

 
Creatively caring for orphans isn’t as easy as some of the other creative caring we’ve been discussing for the past 28 days.  Perhaps the most obvious way to care for an orphan is to adopt them, but adoption is a lifelong commitment … and not one that every family can make. Those who are willing and able to adopt have my utmost respect! Giving a child a home with parents who will love and care for them is a remarkable gift. If adoption is something you’ve been seriously considering, then I encourage you to look into it further. There may be a child just waiting to be paired with you.
 
Earlier in this series I talked about creatively caring for foster families. Foster care is sometimes the best option for an orphaned child. If you’ve been considering becoming a foster parent, by all means do your homework and see if that’s a good fit for you. I’m certain there’s a child who needs a good foster home!
 

But what about children who aren’t adoptable …

and wouldn’t do well in foster care?

 
Do such children really exist?  Yes, they do … and the problem is getting worse.  By the way, even if we choose to ignore the problem — and the children, they’re still going to be there …
Over the last two decades, the model for care of orphans has greatly changed. Decades ago, long-term, large homes were the prevalent model for orphan care. Big dormitories, or at least large group homes, dominated the landscape of care facilities.
 
Without question … and especially in the emerging world … this model had its problems. Sometimes the problems were fairly minor — kids needed more interaction with society outside the grounds of the orphanage. At other times they were quite severe — children were essentially warehoused to get them off the streets and out of sight. Think Oliver Twist repeated around the world. Abuse of children in these facilities was very common. Something clearly needed to be done.
 
So what happened?  The international orphan-care community responded by moving away from long-term, residential care, instead favoring foster care systems that push adoption. This move was so pronounced, in fact, that, in many countries, long-term residential care facilities have been made illegal, with requirements that children be placed in mixed-gender, mixed-aged foster care for no longer than two years.
 
Not long ago, Renaissance Man tried to find an organization to partner with Hope Unlimited for Children in our residential care work in Brazil. Unfortunately, the foster care/adoption model is so prevalent that every organization he contacted (including some of the largest international caregivers for orphans in the world) all had the same response, “We no longer do long-term care.” Not some, not most.Every.single.organization.
 

But what about children who aren’t adoptable …

and wouldn’t do well in foster care?

 
Millions of children worldwide cannot be adopted, and for one reason or another, would not make it in foster care.
 
A child who is 14 years old, who has spent seven years fending for himself on the streets, who has suffered abuse at the hands of virtually everyone he has encountered will never thrive in foster care.
 
A 15-year-old girl who was first prostituted when she was nine …
Do you honestly think she will fit in with a mixed-gender foster family?  I don’t.
 
A 12-year-old orphan who has spent two years in a children’s prison?
Simply not adoptable.
 
Adolescents like these need specialized care, the kind that can only be provided by a team of caregivers in a long-term residential facility. They need the context of family, but it needs to be in a larger less-intimate setting that is prepared to deal with problems common to older orphans … problems like Reactive Attachment Disorder.  Foster care with a two year limit will take these kids nowhere but back to the streets.
 
Should foster care and adoption be the primary model? Absolutely. But there will always be a place for long-term residential care. Residential programs must be closely regulated and monitored to assure standards of care, but they must not become relics of the past. Too many young lives depend on them.
 

But what about children who aren’t adoptable …

and wouldn’t do well in foster care?

 
The children are real.  Our desire to help them is real … but wanting to make their lives better isn’t enough. Good intentions don’t bring transformation. Sometimes changing the lives of mortally at-risk children means we have to make hard personal choices. Sometimes it means we need to re-think the organizations we support.
 
If we expect to make a difference in the lives of children, it takes more than good intentions. It takes getting involved physically or financially or both.
 
As your thoughts turn to what gifts you want to give … or receive … during the upcoming holiday season, I hope you’ll do what I plan to do.  I hope you’ll think beyond yourself and your own family and friends.  Why not help an orphan unwrap Hope?  Why not pool the family gift money and do something significant?  It’s a lot easier than drawing names … then wondering what to get that someone who already has everything!  Why not click HERE to give a gift that will keep giving?
 
Good intentions + action = caring for orphans
Now isn’t that creative?
 
This is part of a 31-day series. To read previous posts, go HERE.
 
I’ll be sharing this ultimate metamorphosis — the transformation of lives — at Metamorphosis Monday at Between Naps on the Porch.

Comments

  1. The story of the orphans of the world is a sad one indeed. My grandparents and then my parents raised foster children who turned out to be citizens of whom they were proud. My husband and I adopted two children from Romania in the late 90s, one of whom came out of a dire orphanage situation and who struggled with severe RAD for many years. Today there are specialized therapists who can help most of the RAD kids, but back in the 90s there was no help at all. Each year brings more help and more hope, we must never give up.

    • Mary, what a wonderful legacy of caring for orphans you have in your family! Thank you to each of you for your generous hearts. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it must have been to raise a child with RAD in the years before anyone understood the struggle. What gifts you gave your children — a home and hope! Bless you.

  2. Dear Susan, from the bottom of my heart I commend you for featuring this organization. As you may recall I was an orphan who was never adopted. Quite simply society chose to look away and I fell through the cracks of the system.
    It was a combination of faith, determination, and well placed angels that saved me. But everyday I ask myself what about the kids who lack this? I too will be featuring this fantastic organization on my blog.

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