Foster Care Initiative, a Hopeful Solution
God has blessed the ministry of Orphan's Tear since we began in 2005. Because of the compassion of hundreds of child sponsors, over 1,000 precious orphans and unwanted children in at least 9 very poor countries are receiving food, clothing, shelter, education and Christian nurture.
And yet we don't ever want to "rest on our laurels." Because of what we've learned, we're compelled to excel even more in our service to the children. To that end, we've prayerfully begun to explore ways to move our children out of orphanages and into local Christian families, as we all know that the love and nurture found in families is potentially superior to what any orphanage can provide. There are, however, some huge hurdles that we face in making this dream a reality.
Foster care and adoption are foreign concepts in many developing nations. On top of that, poor families often find that they can barely feed their own children, much less care for any additional children. It's because of extreme poverty, in fact, that impoverished parents often try to figure out ways to place their own biological children into orphanages. They often succeed. That is a reality we've repeatedly encountered among the scores of Christian orphanages that Orphan's Tear currently assists. All of this is to say that both poverty and ingrained cultural beliefs and practices must be addressed if we are to succeed in getting children out of of orphanages and into families.
We began our foster care initiative in the Fall of 2010 by conducting two conferences for 38 orphanage directors in Myanmar. We brought in a foster care and adoption expert from the U.K. to challenge our directors to begin to think about what would be best for the children in their orphanages. He asked them, "If you and your spouse died, where would you want your children to live—with relatives, Christian friends, or in an orphanage?" They all agreed that they would prefer that their own children be taken in by Christian relatives, and if that were not possible, with some other Christian family. We spent two full days discussing all the aspects of foster care with them and how they can initiate the concept in Myanmar.We've now embarked on a seven-year plan that will benefit all of our orphanage directors as well as the children whom they serve. To succeed, we will have to economically empower potential foster care families so that they can afford to care for another child. We intend to do that in one of two ways: by either giving monthly sponsorship gifts to foster families, or by offering them micro-loans to help them start small, sustainable businesses. The first of these two means of economic empowerment is already working for us in Sri Lanka. A number of our sponsored children there have been enjoying the benefits of foster care, as they are living with families who receive the funds each month that are sent by their foster child's sponsor(s).
If our seven-year plan succeeds, the orphanages that we currently assist will each have much fewer children—so that those orphanages will be more like families. And many children who would have been living under institutional care will be living with loving Christian families, all under the watchful eye of a Christian social worker who may well also be a former orphanage director.
We will appreciate your prayers as we slowly make changes to the ministry of Orphan's Tear that will result in better care for orphans and unwanted children. And we've established a special fund for those who would like to help us with this initiative.