Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Stuck in an orphanage

There is a movie moving around the U.S.  I haven't seen it yet, I have only read what it is about.  I'm still reeling from the last movie I watched about adoption.

The title sticks with me.  Stuck.  From the synopsis on their website, the movie is about children stuck and waiting for families in the international adoption process.  Stuck without a permanent family situation.  Stuck.

I shared about the beginnings of the changing of my heart in this post and this post.  About how I felt a growing conviction that it was wrong to bring international adoptions to an orphanage without first offering family support and reunification to the extremely poor families of the children.  Did I ever stir up some controversy with those posts!  I don't regret writing them at all and I am continuing to study and learn about the subject (more to come on that in another post).

So, if you all have been following along, you know that we want to move the children at the orphanage back to their families sooner.  Orphanages harm children (this also seems to be a part of the Stuck film).  So, we want the orphanage we support to be a temporary home for babies until they are reunited with their families.  And I want to be a part of giving good quality care to those babies while they are there so there is no more harm done.

I don't want children stuck for years and years in the orphanage we support.  So, I have a sort of lofty dream.  I've been told it can't be done.  I've been told that it is unrealistic and children will still linger.  The great thing is that it is what the orphanage was set up to be in the first place.   A temporary place for babies to be given milk and then they would go back to their fathers when they were weaned.  The majority of families leave children at the orphanage intending to get them again.  And many have since I've been there.

But it needs to be done sooner and we need comprehensive home studies to make sure the children are wanted and that they have the support they need.  Doubtful still?  It is happening in other places in Africa.  It can be done.  And best of all the leadership of the orphanage believes in it too.

I don't want children stuck in orphanage waiting for their families to come and get them.  I believe in the alternative care model.  Which says, keep families together and prevent separation, then if they are separated, provide emergency care while you work to reunite the children with their families or with kinship care (this model is very very common and widespread in DRC).   If that can't happen, then domestic adoption (and yes this happens in DRC too).  And finally, international adoption.  Those children that cannot be place back in their families, in kinship care, or with a domestic situation deserve families too and that is where international adoption comes in.  Sounds great right?

You might be saying, there is nothing in place, what about the children stuck there waiting for the process to happen?  Great question!  What I am learning, is we can't do this alone.  We need support and others that believe in this model.  A model that works to move children back into families quickly and effectively.  I say quickly and I mean 6-9 months instead of 3 years.  (I don't mean overnight.).  And I say effectively because there needs to be a social worker hired, comprehensive family assessments need to take place, a support structure will need to be created, and trainings need to occur.  And we need a momentum of people behind us that support this work.  There is work to be done.

There needs to be support from all the donors of the orphanage.  There needs to coordination, cooperation, transparency, and accountability.  There needs to be a mutual belief in the model.  


It simply will not work otherwise.



This very sweet little girl is named Muholeza.  She is six years old.  

This photo of her was sent to me today.  
She is one of the oldest children at the orphanage.  And she is stuck.  There has been no rapid assessment framework at the orphanage.  Her father is handicapped.  I don't know if he can take care of her or not.  I don't know how severe of a handicap he has.  Maybe he can take care of her with some support.  Maybe he has another family member that can take care of her.  I just don't know because we don't have anything in place to really assess her family situation.  So, she lives year after year at the orphanage.  What if when she came to the orphanage the model was in place already? What if we did a rapid assessment on her family situation?  What if we learned that her father needed a handicapped bike and then he would have a profession and be able to support his family?  What if we got him that bike?  And then she moved home by one year old?  What if?  Or, we could have found out he didn't want to raise her or it was a unsafe situation.  We could have tried to find a kinship care placement.  Or we could have found a domestic placement.  Then we could have looked at international adoption.  Whatever way you look at it, she would have been in a family and not stuck in an orphanage for years.

I also received another photo today as well.  What will we do for this sweet little one?


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