The Dark Side of Haitian Orphanages Part 8
There are so many things to write about in regards to this topic, but I am going to cap the series at 10 parts. I want to reiterate that I am not writing this series to brag about All Things New, denigrate other orphanages, or discourage anyone from getting involved in orphan care in 3rd world countries. The reason for this series is to show that orphan ministry and orphan care is not necessarily what it looks like from the outside, and it is of utmost importance to make sure you are a part of orphan ministry that takes care of kids and does it well. Having good intentions is not enough! Let me repeat that:
Having Good Intentions Is Not Enough!
There are too many organizations and individuals that either have evil intentions and desire to take advantage of the plight of children for their own gain or have good intentions without the knowledge and/or ability to really take care of children. My purpose for writing this series is to help all of us understand the challenges and make sure that we know who and what we are supporting with our time, prayers, and resources.
Today's topic focuses on missions teams that come to Haiti to work with orphanages. If you have been with All Things New for any amount of time, then you know we bring teams down when it is possible to do so. Also, if you have been down with us, then you have probably noticed that we are very careful with the amount of time that we allow teams to be inside the orphanage or to have unfettered access to the kids.
For instance, our kids' schedule does not change just because a team comes down. They still have tutoring, meal time, etc. We do special things when teams come down, and we have fun hanging out with them, but we make sure that our kids do not grow an unhealthy attachment to their sponsors or to other Americans they may never see again.
If you have been to an unhealthy orphanage, the opposite is probably true. The kids probably run out to you when you first drive up, they probably latch on to you and sit in your lap or have you hold them constantly the entire time you are in the country. The truth is, and you may remember this, our kids used to do that when they were living with the previous couple before we moved them out.
Now, our kids are attached to Madam Noucheka or Madam Oser, they are attached to Lener or Gina, and they get excited when Mackenson and Wisner come in the gate. These are the men and women that they are connected to and that they have a relationship with.
We love it and our kids love it when teams come. Our kids get to meet their sponsors, our employees get to hang out with some great people, and our family has built so many friendships and relationships with the teams that have come down. We got to meet a lot of people from Ohio, spend time with some great friends and family members from Jacksonville, and I have loved getting to know some of the people from my hometown of LaGrange better than I ever would have otherwise.
We even love it when a friendship is formed and a connection is made. The difference is that most of our kids are older and have spent the past 7 years forming bonds with the men and women who are the closest to them. It is great for them to form friendships with team members that come down, it would not be great if they were forming unhealthy attachments and emotionally charged relationships that lasted a week and left them waiting for the next team.
The reason that bringing missions teams down is a part of the "Dark Side of Haitian Orphanages" series is because it is far too often done in a way that is detrimental to children and does little more than line the pockets of adults. When you visit an orphanage filled with babies and toddlers and then spend 10 hours every day holding them and loving them, they form a bond with you. When you tell a 10 year old that you "wish you could adopt them and bring them to America" then you are getting their hopes up for something that will never happen. When you are at a place that allows you unfettered access to the kids, the orphanage, and even to children's rooms, you are not in a healthy place.
The bad thing here is that many orphanages take advantage of teams in this way as well. They parade children out hoping to form emotional attachments that force the visiting team into sending money and supplies down because of that bond that was formed. It is healthy to see a group of children and to want to help them, and I hope you never see children that are hungry, in need, or desperate and not have a deep desire to provide for them. It is unhealthy for orphanage and ministry leaders to use the emotional well-being of their children to make money for themselves.
First of all, we love when teams come down. But we also bombard our teams with rules and schedules that protect both them and our children. The dark side occurs when those rules and schedules are not in place and babies, children, and teenagers fill the void in their lives with temporary relationships that leave them with nothing more than a sense of abandonment and a lack of trust.
If you are reading this right now, trust me, that has not happened between you and any of our kids. They have trust and peace with long term caregivers and the presence of our family for the past 7 years. We have also never had any complaints about the rules and schedules that we have placed on teams. On top of that, we have had some great friendships formed between team members and our kids that are healthy and that have continued on for years. We have no plans of stopping it, but we will also make sure to do what we can to control it.
Thank you to all of the teams that have come down. I can honestly say that we have not had a bad experience with any of our teams. In fact, I remember a couple of groups and few people who have just gone above and beyond anything we could have imagined. But as I say "thank you" I want to say "beware" at the same time. Do whatever you can to be there for kids in healthy ways and make sure that you are with organizations that lead you in that way.