By Connie Belciug, PhD, CERI Executive Director
There are 140 million orphans around the world and many more children at risk of becoming orphans due to war, poverty and abuse (UNICEF, 2017).
Whether you are driven by the Biblical mandate to care for widows and orphans or you have a compassionate heart that cannot remain indifferent to children without a family, you are most likely asking yourself…
Is there a best or way to help orphans?
Yes! There is a best way. It is the proven and Biblical way. And, it’s the way you and I are so familiar with – family.
In the past, institutionalization (orphanage care) was the default method for caring for orphans around the world. However, decades ago, studies showed that orphanages are not the best place for children to grow up in.
The family is the first and best option for children. While in the west, we stopped institutionalizing children long ago, in developing countries, millions are still in orphanages.
A report provided by Save the Children (2009) indicated that 80% of children in orphanages have a living parent and of all the children classified as orphans, only 15.1 million have lost both parents (UNICEF, 2017).
This means that approximately 90% of orphans have one living parent!
The proven way
As an individual wanting to change how orphans are cared for globally, you can support programs that prioritize family-based care. The best programs focus on:
strengthening biological families
developing kinship care options
recruiting foster families
developing community-based programs that help single parents
Caring for orphans in families is the right thing. It upholds their rights as children, better meets their needs and ensures care through adulthood. Family-based care is also more cost effective than institutionalization, which means we can help more kids with fewer dollars!
The Biblical way
Family-based care is also the Biblical way to care for orphans. God designed the family as the perfect environment to raise a child. Christians have the mandate to strengthen single parent families (James 1:27), and to provide children a family (Psalm 68:6). The Bible calls Christians to protect orphans and single parent families (Psalm 68:5).
The best way
At CERI, we are doing two important things to make sure orphans grow up in a loving family: we prevent family separation and intervene to transform the practice of child institutionalization.
We prevent children from becoming orphans by strengthening their families, providing for their needs and educating their parents about their kids’ needs.
We prepare teens who grew up in orphanages for the challenges of life outside the orphanage, thus breaking the generational cycle of institutionalization.
We equip communities with the tools necessary to develop alternatives to orphanages, so that institutionalization is not their only option.
We find loving families for children who live in orphanages to give them the chance to grow and mature in a family environment.
We reunify children with their biological parents, supporting them both through the adaptation period.
We work with governments to develop policy that makes possible for orphans to grow up in families.