Sharing some awesome inspiration

I love this video!!

I have read so many studies and articles lately.  Planned and strategized.  Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of what is important.  So many differing opinions and recommendations, it’s a good reminder to remember — it’s about what is best for these kids…not what’s best or easiest for everyone else.

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A response: The Best Thing About Orphanages

You can find the full article here:  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703510304574626080835477074.html?mod=googlenews_wsj#articleTabs_comments%3D%26articleTabs%3Dcomments

While researching orphan care best practices, I stumbled onto this article and I thought opening this conversation may bring about some dialogue.

According to this article from 2010, it says, “Last month, Duke University researchers issued the first report on their multiyear study of 3,000 orphaned, abandoned and neglected children in developing countries in Africa and East and South Asia. About half were reared in small and large “institutions” (or orphanages) and half in “community” programs (kin and foster care). Contrary to conventional wisdom, the researchers found that children raised in orphanages by nonfamily members were no worse in their health, emotional and cognitive functioning, and physical growth than those cared for in their communities by relatives. More important, the orphanage-reared children performed better than their counterparts cared for by community strangers, which is commonly the case in foster-care programs.

Interesting.  A lot of people (including myself) don’t think that orphanages are superior to foster care.  I think everyone agrees that children are always better off in biological families, IF they are safe for the child.  Where opinions really start to diverge is if that is not a possibility for a child.

I think that it bears pointing out — orphan is a very generic term and I don’t think that there is a blanket solution.  Double orphans, single orphans, economic orphans, abandoned children, abused and neglected children, street children, at risk youth — there are A LOT of labels for these little ones.

There are between 143 – 210 million children who are considered “orphans” in the world today.  The article goes on to talk about US Foster Care, “Over a half-million American kids are in foster care (which is often luxury care by the standards of orphanage care in poor countries), but still a sizable percentage of American foster-care kids will have their disadvantages compounded in one important way: They will spend their entire childhoods in the worst of all possible situations, “permanent temporary care,” in which they will be moved from one placement to the next to the next, many losing count of their foster homes before they “age out” of the system at 18.

Permanent temporary care.  That does not sound to me like best practice.  There is a sharp divide among those who are for children in orphan care and I think (like pretty much every other humanitarian issue) there can be common ground and both side have their points.  One particular quote in the article that struck me was this, “The children at Barium Springs Home for Children worked a lot and didn’t get the hugs many children take for granted, but we did get advantages that many children today don’t get—a sense of security, permanence and home.

More stunning statistics follow:  “During the past decade I have surveyed more than 2,500 alumni from 15 American orphanages. In two journal articles, I reported the same general conclusion: The orphanage alumni have outpaced their counterparts in the general population often by wide margins in almost all social and economic measures, including educational attainment, income and positive attitude toward life. White orphanage alumni had a 39% higher rate of college graduation than white Americans of the same age, and less than 3% had hostile memories of their orphanage experiences. University of Alabama historian David Beito replicated the study with several hundred alumni from another orphanage, reaching much the same conclusions.” [Bold emphasis is mine.]  This article seems to challenge every other best practice study and article that I have read.

In a historical note, the article points out that, “Orphanages were generally created by communities to improve the life chances of the children in their care and, by and large, did just that.”  That is my goal and my heart — improve the life chances of children.  Love.  Permanency.  But I did not see that as being in an orphanage.

There are bad orphanages, bad group homes, bad biological families, bad foster families.  But maybe weeding out the bad is the answer.  And using the good to continue doing what they are successfully doing.  I think that the answer lies in using orphanages, using group homes, using kinship/biological care, using foster care, using adoption.  The point being that each and every child should have their specific needs and circumstances assessed and addressed.  That is what I am starting to see as being true best practice.

Thoughts?

One Day, One Voice, One Purpose

I have seen a mixed reaction to Orphan Sunday.  I can understand both sides, for and against but I staunchly believe that Orphan Sunday is an amazing thing.  As a Christian and a dedicated follower of Jesus, Orphan Sunday is the Church’s expression of God’s heart for the orphan and the widow.

Christian Alliance for Orphans has created an AMAZING video that I encourage every single person to watch.  It really shows what the heart of Orphan Sunday is about — LOVING on children who have been orphaned.  Sometimes that expression of love is adoption, sometimes it’s giving financially, sometimes it’s prayer.  Whatever way that God speaks to our hearts individually is between Him and us.  We need to make sure that our actions are in the best interest of children, do our homework on programs before we get involved, be dedicated to following best practices, but continue to press on and to love them.  Regardless of the circumstances that have led them to be in orphan care, they need love and they need to be shown love.  I encourage you to watch the video and to search your heart for where God might be leading you.

Out with the Old, In with the New

Lately, I have been doing A LOT of reading and research, along with praying and seeking God’s direction.

I have read literally hundreds of articles about starting a non-profit and running a nonprofit.  They all say about the same thing.  A lot of articles out there are simply saying that you shouldn’t even try.  That is probably true for some.  There are so many small nonprofits who are not sustainable and who struggle every single day, even though they are doing great work.

How will we be any different?  In fact, in some ways, our goal is even more challenging (speaking from a donor standpoint).  And our goal is WAAAY bigger…so big that a lot of people don’t think it’s possible.  (Let’s keep in mind that during history, I am sure a lot of people didn’t think we would send people into space either.)

First off, we are going to choose to ignore about half of the “rules.”  These are great rules for small, incremental change.  We are going big and fast.  No time to waste on slowly building.  We will be single minded (but broad enough to actually address some underlying issues) in our focus.  Serve orphans and their communities.

Sustainability is something I believe in completely.  It isn’t fair to staff or those we serve for an organization to not have a sustainability plan.  But at first, it’s going to be a little rough and perhaps a bit hairy.  Appropriate partnerships and collaboration are going to be one of the keys for our mutual success.  There are other organizations out there who want the same thing that we want, their approach might be different but it also might work.

I think that in life sometimes it’s important to just do it…  I realize the population that we have chosen to serve is vulnerable.  I feel that we must do our due diligence to make sure that we are serving them carefully, prayerfully, and with best practices.  Fast does not have to mean sloppy.  It means moving quickly and seizing opportunities.  Trying new things.  Being pro-active in change.  There are some amazing models out there and I am anxious to get started.

Moving quickly doesn’t mean throwing caution to the wind.  It means intense planning.  Studying models that work and then doing them.  Not spending years developing and testing.  It means getting your hands dirty while you study and develop.  These kiddos need families now…the longer we wait, the bigger the problem becomes.

You only get one chance in this life…and you are not getting out of here alive.