The Dark Side of Haitian Orphanages Part 9

This has been a challenging series to write because of how true it is. The fact that people take advantage of children who have nothing is a difficult thing to comprehend. The fact that most kids in orphanages have parents and that they are there for purely economic reasons is crazy. If you have missed any previous blog, just click here. Today I want to talk about the idea that children need families to thrive.

Did you know that when a new orphanage starts in a 3rd world country, it usually creates its own "market" for lack of a better term. What I mean is that almost every time an orphanage is started in an impoverished area, men and women who cannot feed or provide for their children take notice. They see an orphanage being built by foreign money, whether by Americans or Haitians, and many believe that the new facility will be a better place for their child. In essence, building the orphanage leads men and women to bring their children to the new facility and creates orphans out of children who previously lived with family. I remember a few years ago, an orphanage opened in our area and there were lines of people every day just waiting to try to get their child(ren) into the facility when just days before they were content caring for their child themselves.

I have already talked about the idea that many men and women believe that their kids will be better off in an orphanage. When we are in Haiti, I could not even begin to describe the number of times we have been asked to take someone's child. It is also important to note that we did not "start" an orphanage when we moved down to Haiti, but we took over an already existing and corrupt orphanage. We also met with a representative of each child and offered to continue to care for them if that person (whether parent, relative, or friend) were to bring the child back into their home. Only a couple of families agreed to that.

Back to the issue at hand. Children do need families to thrive. Aside from the huge number of studies done on the topic or the fact that every developed country in the world has moved away from institutional care, it is just common sense. It is better to have 2 parents taking care of a few kids than to have caregivers in charge of way too many. There is also a difference when people are paid to take care of children rather than paying for everything for their children. The bottom line is:

When everything else is equal, living with a family is better than living in an institution. 

From time to time I go online and search for other orphanages operating in 3rd world countries to see if I can learn anything by what they do. One time, I got to an orphanage in Kenya, and the organization running that orphanage had operations in countries all over the world. On their website, they actually had statistics about why the children that came out of their orphanage performed better in the real world than those who grew up in families in that country. It was almost like they were saying that it was better for children to be brought up in their institution than at their own homes with their own parents. I want to assure you that we at All Things New do not believe that to be the case.

At the same time, we have seen organizations in Haiti and in other 3rd world countries begin to say that all orphanages need to close. They site the corruption, the fact that many of the children in orphanages are not orphans, and the idea that very few orphanages are run by people who have been trained and prepared to run an orphanage. The problem with an organization like this is that I have never seen anything close to a practical solution that would allow for all orphanages to be closed. In Haiti alone, tens of thousands of children live in orphanages. Some well taken care of and others are not. The point is that you cannot get rid of orphanages all together without having some kind of plan of how those children will be cared for. There is, after all, a reason that children are living in orphanages now even if that reason is purely financial. 

The Dark Side of this issue is that children need families to thrive, but many 3rd world countries need orphanages for its children to survive. I cannot imagine where our kids would be without All Things New and I do not want to. At the same time, my heart hurts that they have to live here. I wonder why they do not have parents like I did or why they have to live with 21 other kids and 20 caregivers. 

I do not know what the answer to this dilemma is. I know that there are long term solutions like moving to a foster care system and using the millions of dollars that run through orphanages each year to start community based care practices. To an even greater degree, job creation and training opportunities that stop the spread of "economic orphans" and allow men and women to care for their own children. For the short term, however, there has to be a way to shut down corrupt orphanages while keeping open those that effectively care for abandoned children.

My point in writing this is to warn you of 3 different things when it comes to orphan care in the world:

1. When an organization tries to convince you that what they provide is better than a child being with a family.

2. When an organization tries to convince of the need to start and build new orphanages in Haiti or other 3rd world countries.

3.When an organization tries to convince you that orphanages need to be closed now without a real plan of how to make that happen.

When any of these 3 thoughts are present, then the organization is probably one that we would want to stay away from. There is a measured attack that we have to make on the world of orphan care. In the short term we have to care for vulnerable children and fight against anyone or anything that tries to take advantage of them. Starting new orphanages does nothing more than create more orphans while funding corrupt orphanages does nothing more than perpetuate evil. We have to find places and people that we trust and invest in them and the children they care for. In the long term, we have to attack the root of the orphan crisis in 3rd world countries and fight for children to have families in which they can grow up.  


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