What if we could redefine orphan care and the future of institutionalized orphans? What if we could keep families together and provide permanent families for children and foster homes for those awaiting adoption? We can but it's going to take time, dedication, education and organizations willing to collaborate and cooperate with each other. One of the biggest issues in ministry is the unwillingness for ministries to work together for the bigger picture out of fear that they may lose funding or recognition to another name they are helping. We need to get over that... that discussion is for another day though.
What does orphan care currently look like? It looks like big, concrete buildings with many bunk beds to a room and workers that take care of the children's needs but do not take the place of a mom and dad. It often does not recreate a family structure and many times kids never get to experience the same life a child with a family would. There are those that would argue that a nicely run orphanage isn't so bad if they are fed, clean, taken care of and given some love from those who work there. To that I say, "Go ahead then, send your child off. It's not that bad, right? It would be just as good as living with you". I'm sure you would never do that because you know in your heart it's not the same. Nothing can take the place of the love and acceptance of parents and being a part of a family. The spectrum of care in orphanages ranges from filthy with little to no affection to immaculate with lots of love and attention but in the end, children still long to be wanted and to have a family of their own.
So how can we change that? There are hundreds of thousands of orphans in Haiti. Every day hundreds of mission teams fly to Haiti for a variety of reasons and you will almost always meet a team on their way to do some type of orphan care, almost always with an orphanage or with the goal of building an orphanage. I've read a few blogs that are completely against this type of mentality when going to Haiti and at first I thought that was a little harsh but I get where they are coming from. So my goal is to find a way to start getting these new ideas out and educating churches, Christians, mission organizations so that there can be a new trend when going to Haiti. Instead of going to build an orphanage or help the orphans, what if the new mission was to help families stay together or help kids find families. What if we could change the face of Haiti from being a country of orphans to a country of families? I know, I'm a dreamer and I dream big but it could happen and you could help it happen.
Imagine instead of building an orphanage you built a neighborhood. What if a big concrete building you build several homes or an apartment type complex or duplexes? What if when a mom came to you and wanted to give her child up because she had 2 other kids and she couldn't afford to feed them all and the baby would starve, instead of taking that baby and raising it, you took the family in and provided for them. Whoa, now instead of 1 mouth, you have to feed 4? How is that feasible? Well, you provide her shelter and food and ask her to take in 1 more child whose parents died from cholera. Then you give her a job in the neighborhood to help with the food and shelter she's getting and give her a small salary. So now your ministry has kept a family together, provided housing, given a child a family setting (possibly a forever family) and given the mom a job. Or, you could just have your orphanage with another child without a family.
But you already have an orphanage building? Okay, so do some remodeling. Or start with foster care. If you've been in an area for any length of time, hopefully you've made friends with the community around you. If so, start reaching out to the families you know are strong and ask them to take in one of the kids in your orphanage. Offer them support with the food and schooling. Provide free education or skills courses for parents willing to foster. Invest in those parents and in others who are interested.
Know someone who works in Haiti with orphanages? Talk to them about the future of their orphanage and if they want to do more to help families. Talk to your church or ministry who wants to go build another orphanage and think about putting kids in a place where they may never get to be with a family again or think about ways you can connect these orphans with families. International adoption is not an option for most of the orphans in Haiti, even the true orphans. The system, the quota, the sheer number of orphans to the number of adopting parents makes it an impossible goal to reach of getting every orphaned child into a home overseas, however, we can get them homes and families.
Some have argued the church will never go for this because "Orphan" care and "orphanages" conjure up much more financial giving than "family restoration" or "building neighborhoods/communities". I hope they are wrong. I hope that Christian churches can let go of some of the stereotype behaviors and show that in the end the goal is for children to know the love of a forever family, even if it means doing something different, "unconventional" and something that is not traditional.
If you are interested in getting involved with organizations on the ground that are moving in this direction let me know and I can connect you with them. If you are interested in helping your current ministry in Haiti transition from the traditional orphanage to a family based mission, let me know and I will work with you to develop a strategic plan to help move you in the right direction. If you want to help change the future of orphan care in Haiti, help get the word out. Share this idea, these concepts and the new vision of change for the future of Haiti's most precious asset... their children.
I made my first trip to Haiti in 1998. Fell in love with my first orphan in 2000. Started a non-profit to help Haiti in 2003 and started taking teams down on short-term mission trips soon after. I fell in love with Wanna and Fritzon (and a lot of others in the same orphanage) in March of 2010 and had to wait over 2 years to start the adoption process due to the laws of Haiti and a process that is always changing. Our documents were finally submitted and accepted in the fall of 2012 and are currently moving through the court system. We are quickly (hopefully) approaching the end of our adoption. This is my blog to talk about all things related to our adoption and any thing else I think is relevant to it. Enjoy!