Recently the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution to encourage the closing of orphanages around the world. They didn’t say what would happen to the eight million abandoned or orphaned children currently in care facilities somewhere. Closing orphanages is a reasonable goal only if there are good alternatives. So far, very few viable options have been forthcoming, I doubt there will be. The UN is the same organization that has shut down international adoptions. It seems they are slowly taking away options from the ones who need options the most.
It’s generally agreed that most orphanages are horrible places. Most orphanages do not do a good job of helping children grow up to be healthy adults. Almost no one wants to be in an orphanage. Most orphanages are about as good as foster care systems, they don’t work, and children become victims all over again. No society has ever done a great job with orphaned or abandoned children, and it’s a problem that’s been around since the beginning of man. We need to do a better job of caring for the most vulnerable members of society. Arbitrarily closing orphanages does not help orphans.
An accurate analogy to closing orphanages is the closing of psychiatric hospitals in the US in the 80s and 90s. Yes, psychiatric hospitals were horrible places, but now that they are closed, the people who need these services are living on the streets. Walk around any US city, and you will see the result of closing institutions and assuming some solution will spring up later. Solutions don’t just happen. A certain percentage of homeless people should be in care facilities, but this is no longer an option. Psychiatric hospitals were closed by well-meaning people who did not know the hardship it would cause.
Closing all orphanages because some are horrible is like shutting down the US healthcare system thinking it will end illness and death. The US health care system is broken, people have trouble receiving care, and if they do, they live in fear of the bills that will come. Health care in the US is ridiculously overpriced and confusing, but it’s the only system we have. Closing down the US health care system makes no sense if it’s all we have.
The UN resolution points out that up to 80% of children in orphanages have a living parent. This is probably true, the issue that isn’t mentioned is many times, these are horrible and abusive parents. Not everyone should raise children. Many of the children in our home have horrific histories of physical and sexual abuse inflicted on them by parents. People are messed up. Children are easy targets and victims of abuse when they are in unhealthy family situations. Keeping families together is NOT always the best option for a child. To think that every family should be kept together, no matter what, is living in denial. Some families are just a nightmare.
If the UN resolution is pushed forward, I honestly don’t think it will change too much. People who actually work every day with the worst side of humanity know that we need housing and care for children with no healthy family option. I hope horrible orphanages do close, but what I believe will happen in most countries is they will play semantics to fulfill the UN resolution. Orphanages will soon be called “child care facilities,” “large scale foster homes,” or some other euphuism for what has always been called orphanages.
If this sounds like I’m defensive about orphan care, it’s because I feel passionate about what my wife, myself, and our exceptional team have dedicated our lives to. We work hard to create a home that is different than the rest, a home where children thrive. Yes, the orphanage system worldwide is broken, the foster care system is also broken. Children belong in families when possible. Unfortunately, we live in a very broken world where children fall through the cracks. Sometimes children need a place to call home, far from anyone who might have birthed them. Until broken people stop having kids, there will be a need for orphan care, whatever name you give it.
I wish orphanages didn’t exist. Every child should be in a healthy family situation. But until the darkness of this world is broken, there will be orphaned, abandoned, and abused children. To take away any option to help children in danger is just wrong, whatever the motivation.
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