Addendum: I didn't think this was needed but here is a post that outlines how we envision moving children through the orphanage in less than one year. For anyone that has worked overseas or done any work in DRC, you know how long it takes putting plans into action on the ground, not only funding but on-the-ground barriers. Again, looking to the wonderful work in Uganda as a guide, we follow behind the giant footsteps of the Rileys in Uganda with ReUnite, Child's i Foundation, Ugandan's Adopt, Abide Family Center, Alternative Care Framework, Thrive Uganda, and more. I'm so thankful for all their work which helps to guide ours in DRC. And I'm thankful for all the help and wisdom they have shared with me over the last couple years. We are grateful to be working in eastern DRC with vulnerable children and their families.
If you are a regular reader of my blog you might just want to skip this post. I'm only going to reiterate what I have been saying over and over again for the past two years. I'm going to do it so there is no doubt about what I believe.
First--I believe children belong in families and when possible their family of origen. In the absence of social safety nets many vulnerable families rely on orphanages to care for their children. Nowhere is this example best seen than in the "orphanage" we support (which is full of children that are not orphans). Mothers die giving birth to their children. The father is desperately poor and cannot afford formula or food. The newborn and sometimes older sibling is brought to the orphanage. The father goes and tries to find work. He either visits often or he is gone for a long time. Most fathers come and get their children. Some do not. And for those in the second group, the reasons are complicated, but most often it is because they are still in desperate poverty.
Second--Orphanages harm children. That is clear. I have seen it in my own children and witnessed it first hand in the children we have been supporting for 3 1/2 years in eastern DRC. Even with excellent care (which we try to help provide), they harm children.
For two and a half years I have struggled with these two issues. I first thought international adoption was the answer to the situations of extreme poverty these families found themselves in (and it was for some of the families). I came to the realization and shared publicly about it here that I was wrong. That international adoption is not the answer to a family's extreme poverty when they love and want to care for their child. Family reunification and support is the answer. I firmly believe in the alternative care framework. Please read about it here.
There are groups doing this work in Uganda. I have linked to them many times before on this blog. They have done guest posts. They also don't believe children should live in orphanages. They are able to move children out of orphanages and back with their families (or new adoptive families in Uganda) in less than a year or they find families for abandoned children in less than a year. This is my dream for the orphanage we work at. That we would be able to meet the needs of families in crisis. Ideally even before a newborn enters the orphanage we would find alternative ways to help that family. If the baby does need emergency care while the family gets back on their feet than that would be provided with comprehensive social work assessment and evaluation. And yes, for those children that cannot be reunified with their families or with extended families, domestic adoption should be considered. Only after those possiblities are exhausted, should IA be considered.
But this doesn't mean a child sits in an orphanage for years. And if the orphanage you are considering supporting doesn't have a plan in place for an alternative care framework similar to what I have described above, you shouldn't support it. I feel very passionately that children belong in families. My role I now believe is that it should be helping those families that want and love their children, keep them and finding families in DRC that would care for those children whose families cannot care for them as they should. Others may advocate for adoption for those situations that I mentioned above, which, as long as it they advocate for children who cannot be reunified or for whom alternative care cannot be found, isn't wrong in my book.
I will always advocate for ethical, transparent adoptions as well as making sure all the work we do on the ground is done with dignity and respect towards those we serve, especially vulnerable families and their children.
Being a public blogger about all these issues comes with it's downsides. One is that I get attacked about what I write about. And often there are accusations made against me that are untrue or unfounded. Tonight, I felt like I wanted to address one of them. Please refer to all my posts over the past year for much more thorough information about what I believe and also many other sources of research and groups doing similar work throughout Africa.
It's late here in Tanzania. There are mosquitoes flying around and the odor of trash burning next door. I'm off to bed. Tomorrow is a new day.
Addendum: I'm again noting my comment policy. Right now I am not moderating comments. So, if you don't see yours show up, email me, there have been problems before. I appreciate comments that are constructive and not insulting. Thanks!