Monday, May 16, 2011

Is Adoption Making a Dent in the Orphan Crisis?

Florence Muindi, International Director and President of Life in Abundance, spoke during the first general session of the Summit. Her message was simple and oh how I love being in a room with someone (or in this case so many) that have the same thoughts as I do about the orphan crisis and where we went wrong when we were honestly trying to help.

We had just heard that in the last decade, the number of orphans has doubled and now, depending on who you talk to, that number is somewhere between 140 million and 160 million children that are classified as orphans because they have lost one or both parents. (It really stings to give the official definition of an orphan because it means so many of our children in Pueblo Nuevo are considered to be orphans because they are fatherless.) Does that bother anyone else? That in just 10 years the number of orphans has DOUBLED? Does it make you wonder why and what can be done about so that it doesn't double again over the next decade?

Florence Muindi's message was right on. She spoke of how we must lift up the local church. We must empower and help restore the dignity that has been lost. We must work on curing the orphan crisis and the only way to do that is through preventing children from becoming orphans in the first place. She said that we must lead those we work with to a dependency on God alone, not dependency on us. "We are called to the ministry of redemption," she said, "and we must keep the local church at the center."

Mind spinning not believing what I was hearing in the opening session of this Summit and trying hard to keep my seat and my mouth closed because I was overflowing with joy and excitement about what was being said to our group of 1300+ and feeling OK about what I was thinking.

Is adoption even making a dent in the orphan crisis? No. Obviously not. If the number of orphans has doubled in the last 10 years, that proves that it is not.

Is building more orphanages a good response to the crisis? No. Again, the number continues to grow even with the building of new orphanages.

There are children that need to be adopted and should be, but let's face it, in that large number of 140 to 160 million, most of those children are not even eligible for adoption. Most of those children have not even lost both parents. Most are still living with one of their parents or other family members. There is absolutely no reason that these children should be adopted. Feel free to debate this. So many believe that is better to remove children from their poor situations by adopting them and bringing them to the U.S. than to help create better situations for them in their home countries with their families. Adoption has it's place and if a child is truly without parents, without any family, without a community and church to care for them properly, then yes, he should be adopted. But still, it doesn't make a dent in the crisis.

And orphanages. I always think of the movie Field of Dreams when I hear of a new orphanage being built. "If you build it, they will come." It doesn't matter how many orphanages are built in countries all over the world. Every one of them would fill up in a short amount of time. Whether it is with true orphans, children that have been removed from their parents due to abuse or children that are not orphans and not abused, but their parents just cannot afford to care for them, they will all fill to capacity. It's just a matter of time. Does that help slow the increase of orphans? No. Orphanages do serve an incredible purpose (if they are truly serving the orphan, not causing them more harm as some do) and there is a need for a large number of orphanages in the world.

Some are called to adopt. Some are called to build and work in orphanages. I believe that with everything in me. But while we are called to things, we must be aware that neither of those is slowing the orphan crisis and there is something that we can do about it.

Prevention. If we truly care about orphans, it is the only option. There is not just one way to go about it, but it is the only way to stop that number from doubling again.

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