When people talk about responding to orphan care, there are usually two avenues that come to mind. The first is adoption – and often, this implies a couple from a wealthier country adopting a child out of an orphanage in the third world. The second is the idea of building an orphanage to care for children. I think that these can be good solutions for children . . . certainly international adoption and orphanages have been a way to care for millions of children who have been orphaned or abandoned. But as my eyes have been opened to the breadth and depth of the global orphan crisis, I also think it is really important to begin creating models in which children can be cared for in their own country. Especially for the many children living in countries in which adoption is not an option.
This is not always an easy task, because local adoption is not as socially accepted in some countries. In Haiti, when a child is taken in by someone else, they are most often relegated to a role of household servant and treated very poorly. In Korea, India, and other countries where bloodlines are emphasized, adoption is frowned upon. Traditional adoption (outside of biological caretaking) is not a common practice in most African countries, either. As such, many countries have overflowing orphanages, and the trend of adopting children out to countries where adoption is more accepted has been a way to bridge the gap. However, this will never solve the orphan crisis. There are many, many children growing up in orphanages in countries that do not have a system in place for international adoption. Uganda is one such place.
I am hearing more and more about organizations that are seeking to change things at a systemic level, and one example is the campaign by the Childs i foundation. They are working hard to promote domestic fostering and adoption in the local community in Uganda. Instead of building more orphanages, they are trying to get kids into homes.
The following is a tv spot they did with the local news in Kampala:
I would love to see more churches, especially churches sending short-term trips to care for orphans, to begin to look at ways we can partner with local churches to find solutions beyond building more buildings where kids will be raised by staff instead of by a family.
I also love the work the Rileys in Uganda are doing to try to resettle children into their birth family when that is an option. How different would it be if every short-term mission trip spent their time trying to locate and problem-solve with birth families? What if, instead of raising the funds for an orphanage, churches raised the funds to house young mothers who want to parent?
I think it is good for us to think outside of the international adoption/orphanage paradigm.