With more than 150 million orphans around the world, we are in the midst of a global orphan crisis. In developing countries, the response to more orphans has typically been building more orphanages. As the number of orphans continues to grow, it’s obvious that this isn’t a solution. Instead, we must work on developing strong families so that children can remain with their biological parents or in their home country with adoptive families who can provide the love and nurturing that children need as God designed.
Fortunately, we are seeing an increasing shift toward that mindset in various countries across the globe. Countries such as China, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Haiti are currently working with international organizations, including Bethany Christian Services, to create sustainable foster care systems that will support families and children in crisis. Bethany has had great success in partnering with these organizations and local churches to recruit loving families for these children. These organizations are providing critical training and best practices so that the countries can work with families to ensure children receive the care they need in hopes of keeping families intact.
Creating sustainable systems in developing countries to care for orphans and vulnerable children isn’t something that can be achieved overnight. Therefore, we must seek to supplement the development of strong families through other means, whether it’s providing food, medicine and other critical supplies or with the introduction of skills training that will enable families to provide for themselves. Programs such as Chache Lavi (Seeking Life), initiated by Fondation Enfant Jesus four years ago in Lamardelle (Haiti) to empower women to provide for their children so that entering them into slavery is not even a consideration, or the One Family program recently introduced by Bethany, which pairs a U.S. city with an international city to help international families and children in need. The immediate impact of these initiatives may be small, but the lasting effect they have on changing the culture and environment within communities is significant.
The positive shift in developing countries toward implementing an infrastructure that supports sustainable programs to care for abandoned, neglected and abused children was unimaginable in China, Ethiopia, and Haiti a decade ago. But today, the commitment of organizations such as UNICEF, in concert with the support exhibited by the Christian community, is making these life-changing solutions possible.
While it’s great to see the tremendous results achieved in countries like Ethiopia, it is equally encouraging to see additional countries such as Rwanda, Ukraine and Ghana introducing initiatives to help vulnerable children, including Bethany’s recently introduced “Shelter Family Care” program in Ghana, which seeks to rescue children who are victims of exploitation and trafficking. It’s unlikely that we’ll ever live in a world where there are no orphans, but this doesn’t mean we can’t all work together to stem the tide of the global orphan crisis.