Is it possible to care for orphans without orphanages?
Today is day four of #AskBetterQuestions. As we prepare for CAFO2015, we want to engage the families, churches, leaders and influencers in a conversation about adoption and orphan care. Today on the In Defense of the Fatherless blog, we have a guest post from Brittany Devries.
Brittany lives in Panama with her husband and four children – they are Panama’s first foster family in the nationwide pilot foster program. Passionate about children’s rights, Brittany’s dream is to see legislative reform throughout Latin America using social media and film. Her documentary projects include Dear Panama, The Eloy Project and Orphan Care.
“I have a dream…” – ok that sounds cliché, but no really I do. I envision a world without orphans where our community acts instead of reacts, where resources to families in need are readily available, where churches are connected and reaching beyond themselves, where safe families are ready and willing on an emergency and temporary basis. The dream is alternative care.
What is alternative care? Family reunification, kinship care (care by a extended family member), foster care, local and international adoption and lastly group homes.
An estimated 8 million children live in institutions globally. For every year a child lives in an institution they will lose four months of development. Children living in institutions are six times more likely to experience physical abuse and four times more likely to experience sexual violence when compared to children in family-based care. Despite numerous studies published on “best practice” citing the harm of institutionalizing children, particularly at young ages and for extended periods of time, orphanages continue to multiply in number.
Resources that could otherwise be used in supporting sustainable programs that benefit the whole child, their family and the local community go to institutions where monthly budgets for the care of one child can be as high as $1200. The same child could be supported in foster care, in a family environment for half the cost. Children in families thrive on all levels; our foster daughter grew nearly three inches and two full shoe sizes in the first three months at our home. Why? Because of individual care and attention.
So is it possible to care for “orphans” without orphanages?
Absolutely, but it will require a paradigm shift in how we address the care of vulnerable children and a commitment to provide children with alternative care options. We cannot settle for less, this is a child’s right and it is our responsibility as child advocates in upholding and defending these rights. In the last ten years Romania, Rwanda, Uganda and China have seen huge strides in implementing alternative care. But change does not happen overnight. For now we must deal with the reality of orphanages, to completely ignore and disregard their existence and impact on the community does not further the goal of alternative care. We must move forward together.
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