What’s wrong with orphanages? (Part 3)

March 15, 2016

Last week, we began addressing some of the issues inherent in institutional orphanages around the world in preparation of our conversation of what a best practice framework for orphan care communities looks like.

Before we can go deeper into our discussion of issues with institutional orphanages or begin exploring a framework for best practices, however, we need to cover one more thing. Some people involved in the orphan care conversation object to the possibility of best practices for orphan care communities because they believe orphan care communities simply cannot provide excellent care and should not be permitted to exist anywhere.

While I appreciate and agree with the heart behind that position – i.e., every child needs a permanent, legal family to love him or her and most orphan care communities cannot provide such a high level of care for every child – the “immediately close all orphanages” position lacks a grounding in the harsh and unfortunate reality that we live in a very broken world and not every orphan will have relatives or an adoptive family to love him or her in the foreseeable future.

I fully agree that orphan care communities are imperfect measures that pale in comparison to permanent, legal families, and that we need to work continually towards providing such families for every single orphan.  However, I also recognize that orphan care communities are necessary at this time as a stop-gap measure until we wisely and properly implement the ideal solutions (which very well may not be in our lifetimes).

As Jedd Medefind, President of Christian Alliance for Orphans, states in CAFO’s White Paper on Understanding Orphan Statistics:

God intended the family as the essential environment for children.  We believe the ideal outcome for every orphan is to know the love and nurture of a permanent family.  Our world’s brokenness at times makes this goal unattainable.  Thus, alternate forms of care are sometimes necessary.  This reality calls us to affirm two seemingly opposing truths at the same time.  First, that amidst the deeply painful and complex situations facing orphans around the globe, there are times when care outside of permanent family may be the best that can be attained.  This can be especially true in countries in which war, disease or other factors have done great harm to the fabric of society. . . . Second, that the need for triage measures should not obscure the ideal or diminish our pursuit of [the ideal solution].

Ultimately, through the book project seeking to develop a best practice framework for orphan care communities, we begin in our common reality and seek to answer this question: “While holding onto the permanent, legal family as ideal and constantly working toward that ideal, how can we develop orphan care communities with as much excellence and best practice as possible?

Be a part of the conversation and help us to answer this question.

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