Frequently Asked Questions
Isn’t it better to live in an orphanage than to live in poverty?
Every Christian should be concerned about poverty and actively working to eradicate poverty in our neighborhoods and in underdeveloped countries. Scripture is clear that God’s heart is for the poor. In our efforts, we must be intentional about not ostracizing the poor and making assumptions about their ability to parent. Placing a child in an orphanage to address poverty in their family is a misappropriation of the wrong child welfare response to a problem of finances. Ironically, this response actually increases the poverty of child and family as now their relational health is also impoverished.
Isn’t it better to live in an orphanage than to live with an abusive family?
If a child is in an abusive situation, there are no winners. Child protection actors might place an abused or neglected child in protective residential care, but that should not be a permanent situation for the child. Essentially, if a child’s only options are to be abused or to grow up in an orphanage, as a community we have failed that child. This question also overlooks the prevalence of abuse and neglect in orphanages which is typically much higher than in families. This includes “well-run” orphanages funded by American churches. We must strive for solutions beyond abuse and institutionalization.
If a child leaves the orphanage, won’t they lose access to education?
A child has a right to education and it is a fundamental component of healthy child development. Many children in orphanages are in free government schools, so there should be no disruption to their education. In the event that staying in the orphanage is the access point to a child’s education, the donor and the organization should look at alternative means to education such as subsidizing the child’s education costs or repurposing the orphanage facility to be a school or supplemental education program.
There are 140 million orphans in the world, don’t we need orphanage houses for them?
This statistic from the UN is packed full of nuance that doesn’t come across in a plain reading. First, most of those children (125 million) are single orphans which means they’ve only lost one parent. Second, even those that have lost both parents still have other family members that could care for them. Lastly, most of the 140 million children are already living in family which means that they don’t require an alternative residential care setting. The best estimates for children in orphanages worldwide is around 6 million children so orphanages are not addressing this number anyway. Fundamentally, this is a problem of family separation and we must approach it with that understanding.
Where do kids go if the orphanage closes?
The short answer is family care settings (their parents, extended family members or other community members through foster care and adoption). There is a lot of work though that goes into making sure that the reintegration to family care is safe and successful. It is important for donors and orphanage staff to recognize that transitioning to family care is not a one-time activity, but to do it in a safe manner requires time and effort for a long period of time. Because this transition is a delicate matter, it’s recommended that orphanages tap into a transition support service provider such as 1MILLIONHOME.
The organization we support is a boarding school, so does this conversation even apply to us?
Generally speaking, there are some differences between orphanages and boarding schools. However, this is really a conversation about children that are growing up outside of parental care and children in boarding schools are spending the majority of their childhood in an institutional setting. The results in disrupted attachment and institutionalized behavior are often similar. There are also contexts where a boarding school is merely a euphemism for an orphanage. However, boarding schools do often send children home on holidays and that could provide the first piece to reintegrating children into full-time family care.
Aren’t kids in orphanages abandoned?
Child abandonment is a problem in every society throughout the world. It is important to have protective mechanisms even while the child is still in the womb to safeguard against abandonment. Most children in orphanages though are not abandoned. Four out of five children in orphanages have one, if not both, of their parents still alive and known. Even for children that are abandoned, there are ways to trace their parents and family, especially in collectivist societies where many orphanages are located. In the event that a child is abandoned and family tracing has bore no results, we must ask this fundamental question: Are we content with any child growing up without family? Our answer is no, and there are remedies for the abandoned child.
I know a child that was raised in an orphanage and they’re doing great, so why should we change models?
We thank God for instances where institutionalized children transition well into adulthood. We must consider two caveats though when looking at such children. First, they are the exception, not the rule. Studies have shown children outside of parental care do far worse in entering adulthood than their peers raised in families. Second, even if a child appears well from the outside, that doesn’t mean they don’t deal with feelings of abandonment and broken attachment for the rest of their lives. We must also prioritize the voice of children currently in orphanages and adults that have left orphanages.