Thursday, March 26, 2009

Orphanages Can Be Used Greatly by God (Why We Cannot Just Leave Street Children on the Street)

by Doug Nichols (Missionary to Children in Africa, Asia, and Latin America since 1968)

It is very discouraging to read articles which are basically negative in regards to caring for orphans and street children in orphanages. Of course, a loving home is better than an orphanage, but does that mean we should give up on orphanages altogether? We do realize that there are some unacceptable orphanages in the world, but creating more loving God centered orphanages could bring glory to God and save thousands of children the pain and abuse they face every day on the street. We need to support both adoption and orphanages.

Although placing a child into a loving family should be our goal, it is not always possible. An orphan or a street child is not taken directly from the street to a home. There is usually some type of government orphanage or childcare agency in which the child is placed while proper records are made. Then the child is placed into a loving family if one can be found.

So, why shouldn’t the church of Jesus Christ start many more orphanages around the world to place street and underprivileged children and orphans into a loving, Christian environment? Orphanages can be safe harbors where children can be lovingly protected and cared for until a home can be found.

The following are simple plans for a Christian Children’s Village in Africa as an example. A Christian Children’s Village with separate homes housing 12 children per home could care for 280 to 500 children! The village would have staff, supervisors, house parents, a school, an all-purpose building, a chapel, a clinic, a play area, and gardens for each house.

Children from neighboring villages could also attend the school. This would enable the orphans to be incorporated into society with other children, families, and loved ones, with the purpose of being adopted whenever possible.

To those who are criticizing orphanages and children’s villages, please, stop doing so and consider what could be done through well-run orphanages. What is the alternative? I believe you would agree that we should not leave the street children and orphans in the sewers, and streets where they are likely to be abused, but that we should place them in a loving environment where they can be cared for, nurtured and ministered to by the grace of God and the Gospel?

Children are tortured, abused, spit upon, kicked, starved and burned on the streets of the world. Why don’t you and I, as Christians, do something about it? Please, encourage your government and church to protect these children, get them off the streets, and place them where they will be loved and cared for in Jesus’ name.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27, ESV)

(This article was adapted by Pastor Kevin Hollinger, author of Reactive Attachment Disorder.)


Africanbluebird said...

Thanks for sharing. This certainly isn't the experience or representative of the situation in Uganda. What the article completely fails to address is the push and pull factors of why children end up on the street or in an orphanage.

In Uganda there is an 'orphan economy' where many people are making money from having children in institutional care. Well run children's villages are just glorified boarding schools in the majority of cases as over 86% of children in care HAVE known family whom they could live with safely.

Poverty is often a reason quoted as why children end up in an institution and we have institutions, including children's villages, recruiting children from vulnerable families into their establishments leaving the family still vulnerable. It's a pandemic. It's dangerous and irresponsible to promote more orphanages and childrens villages when we have seen Uganda go from 35 institutions in 1995 to 600+ today.
Interestingly the children's villages DO NOT take street children so your argument for them is not valid in Uganda.

There are some wonderful people doing some fantastic work with street children (Retrak and Dwelling Places to name a few). Neither advocate for more institutional care. We have seen huge success in returning street children to their communities or being placed in other foster care / adoptive families. This is not achieved through long term orphanages.

God wants children in families. Yes we need temporary homes for some but lets work together to see children in families not orphanages.

baringoflamingo said...

i think it would be good to do a survey of children who were raised in children's villages(good ones) and see what their input it. i personally know 16 children raised in one of the most respect and publicized children's villages and they are NOT bitter and they are so thankful for their "home/mum" but they wished they could have been in a "real" home. Can such a survey be done?

Africanbluebird said...

baringoflamingo - There have been a number of studies on children who have been in institutionalised care but you are right - not enough has been done to study children after they exit a children's village. The survey needs to look at the whole lifespan of a child though not just the immediate years after exiting a village.

I have spoken to children who feel institutional care (including children's villages) has robbed them of some of their identity and their capacity to live in normal Ugandan society. I also spoken to children who feel they have been given a chance by their children's village. In all cases none of the children felt the organization they were at did enough to find alternatives, had enough documentation or provided enough care after they 'exited' the village.

An independent survey would be good.