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The latest UNICEF statistics show there are more than 144 million orphans worldwide. The majority of these children do have a parent. Bethany Christian Services works to strengthen families to ensure that children remain with their families. Finding permanent homes for 22 million orphans living in institutions and group homes is essential for their development and wellbeing. While orphanages have tried to service the global need for providing a home to children who have none, the long-term effects on the children they rear can be damaging.
A study from the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry found that middle-aged adults who had been institutionalized at birth or in early childhood had significant psychosocial issues and chronic illnesses. The study, and others like it, has grave implications for orphaned children everywhere.
Fortunately, there’s a more viable and sustainable solution that is making a real difference in the lives of orphans around the world—family-based care. Family-based care helps existing families stay together so they can care for relatives, and it provides support families need to keep children safe and healthy. The movement has grown quickly in developing countries as communities and local governments begin to see tremendous results.
Family-based care programs gain the most traction when they are mobilized alongside in-country partners. Culturally appropriate mechanisms, specific to each location, are often put in place to ensure sustainability. The programs are most viable when they also address the array of social factors likely to put children at risk including poverty, lack of healthcare, and limited access to education.
Bethany first explored family-based care in Ethiopia seven years ago, and I’m happy to report that initiatives that shift the focus from placing children in orphanages to providing the best possible care in homes are gaining momentum. In addition to Ethiopia, Bethany has introduced family-based care in Zambia and Ghana, and we are providing consulting services in several other countries including Nepal, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Congo, and Haiti.
Churches play an important role in helping family-based initiatives get off the ground in developing countries. As trusted safe havens in many communities, churches can play a crucial role in helping governments and families see the sustainability and viability of these programs.
There’s also much that can be done by generous and caring citizens here in the United States to support family-based care abroad. If you belong to a church, talk to your mission pastors about ongoing projects and see if your church would like to be involved in implementing family-based care programs abroad.
This five-minute video shares much more about how family-based care is making a difference in Zambia today. Learn more about Bethany’s Global Consulting initiative at bethany.org/global-services/global-consulting or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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