With more than 150 million orphans around the world, what we don’t need is more orphanages. What we do need is strong families who can provide the love and nurturing their children need as God designed, strong families willing to open their hearts, and homes to vulnerable children whose biological parents are unable to care for them.
Strong families to prevent the horrors that some children face, like many restavec children in Haiti that are given up to slavery by parents who cannot afford to support them. I shutter when recalling one young lady in Haiti who was “given” by her parents to a local voodoo priest when she was 13 years old, only to be impregnated by the voodoo priest three times before she was 17 and then brutally beaten because she was too old. Strong Families for children relegated to hospitals or orphanages in China because they are thought to be “unadoptable” as a result of an illness or abnormality, such as Cerebral Palsy or a cleft pallet. Children like a young girl from China born with albinism who lived in an orphanage for several years before being placed with a family in the United States.
Fortunately, we are seeing an increasing shift toward developing strong families in various countries across the globe. Countries such as China, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Haiti are working with international organizations, including Bethany Christian Services, to create sustainable foster care systems that will support families and children in crisis by recruiting loving families for these children.
Creating sustainable systems in developing countries to care for orphans and vulnerable children isn’t something that can be achieved overnight. Therefore, we must seek to supplement the development of strong families through other means, whether it’s providing food, medicine and other critical supplies or with the introduction of skills training that will enable families to provide for themselves. Programs like Chache Lavi (Seeking Life), initiated by Fondation Enfant Jesus four years ago in Lamardelle (Haiti) to empower women to provide for their children. The immediate impact of such initiatives may be small, but the lasting effect they have on changing the culture and environment within communities is significant.
The positive shift in developing countries toward implementing an infrastructure that supports sustainable programs to care for abandoned, neglected and abused children was unimaginable in China, Ethiopia, and Haiti a decade ago. But today, the commitment of organizations such as UNICEF, in concert with the support exhibited by the Christian community, is making these life-changing solutions possible.
While it’s great to see the tremendous results achieved in the aforementioned countries, there’s still much work left to be done. That’s why it is equally encouraging to see others, like Rwanda, Ukraine and Ghana, introduce initiatives to help vulnerable children – including one recently introduced in Ghana to rescue children who are victims of exploitation and trafficking. It’s unlikely that we’ll ever live in a world where there are no orphans, but this doesn’t mean we can’t all work together to stem the tide of the global orphan crisis.
Bill Blacquiere is president of Bethany Christian Services.