The Dark Side of Haitian Orphanages Part 5
While there is a lot to write on this topic (click here to see the last blog), I do not want to overlook what is going on in Haiti right now. The official numbers are 219 confirmed cases with 18 deaths and 17 recoveries. Our kids are still doing well, and we are still keeping them mostly quarantined and away from others. Our 2 house moms are still there 24/7, and a few of our other employees are taking care of everything else. Please continue to pray for All Things New and for our kids during this time!
I hope that you are not getting tired of this topic, but there are a few other things that I want to discuss before we move on. I cannot speak on this topic with absolute authority, but I am speaking from both experience and from observation (both mine and others in Haiti). There is a reason that there are people who want all orphanages in Haiti to be shut down, and a lot of it stems from the evil and corruption that can be found in an institution that should be in the business of taking care of children.
Today I want to talk about what happens to kids when they "age out" or are sent away from an orphanage. The vast, vast majority of children in orphanages will never be adopted and are not even in the position to be adopted. Our kids, for instance, could not be adopted and it is not our goal to make that happen. The adoption process is long and complicated, and we have seen too many kids whose lives had been placed on hold while they waited for their adoption to happen, and too often that day never came.
With that said, there is a very important question that must be asked when talking about orphan care and ministry in 3rd world countries:
What happens when the kids turn 18?
The reason I bring this question up in the "Dark Side of Haitian Orphanages" series is because it does not seem like anyone has a good answer to the question. Here are some of the things we have seen:
1. Transitional Homes. These are places where kids can slowly move from the orphanage they were in back out into the "real world" while still having some needs taken care of. This is a great temporary solution, but it just pushes back the main issue.
2. Cutting Ties. Some orphanages, when a kid reaches a certain age, just cut ties with that kid. You may have never considered this, and hopefully you have never been in a position where you had to think about it, but the older a kid is, the less money they will make for an orphanage. It is one thing to sponsor a cute 3 year old who will hug and snuggle with a sponsor the first time they meet. It is another thing to sponsor a teenager who may very well hide from their sponsor and be in a "teenager type mood" that prevents a sponsor from spending any time with them. Many places will only take care of young children and this is a problem on a lot of levels.
3. Send Them Back to Their Family. This is extremely common, and many children who are placed in orphanages initially, will end up back in the same position and same environment that they left when they were younger.
The problem is, and I have said this many times, I do not believe that our responsibility to our kids is for 18 years. Our responsibility to them is for their entire lives. To help them find careers, family, faith, and a life that honors and glorifies GOD. If my parents simply sent me away at the age of 18 to fend for myself, I have no idea where I would be now, but certainly not writing this blog. At the same time, for all sponsors who are reading this, I certainly do not expect you to sponsor our kids until they turn 40.
Most people who run orphanages make 1 of 2 mistakes. Many orphanages that are backed by foreign money will "pamper" a kid with things that they will never have again outside of the orphanage until they are 18 and then send them into a world they are neither prepared for nor equipped to handle (I will write more about this at a later date). Other orphanages, mostly those who do not have the same backing, use the kids in their orphanage for as long as they can in whatever way that they can until they are no longer useful and they send them out. Neither of these 2 mistakes are acceptable.
The truth is that we do not have a perfect answer to this question. We are focusing on the future of our kids and have been for some time now. Most of our focus has been on getting them involved in a church, getting them educated, and beginning the process of creating jobs that could potentially help them for the rest of their lives. The last thing, however, is one of the most difficult things that we have faced. We have put a lot of energy into a computer coding program, some solar charging ideas and even an idea involving waste disposal.
What I can promise everyone who is reading this blog is that we do not believe that the purpose of All Things New is to take care of our kids until they turn 18. We believe our job is to take care of them...whatever that looks like. What that looks like right now is that we are trying to help them figure out their future. Please continue to pray with and for us and our kids as this process will be long, difficult, and definitely worth it.