Friday, October 24, 2008

Developing World Orphanages

We got into the taxi and told the driver where we wanted to go. He said, "Good, I need to go that direction anyway." He noticed that my wife was pregnant and said that his wife had just had a baby. His wife had to have an emergency c-section delivery. The problem is that this poor family did not budget for a c-section or for expensive hospital bills. The hospital has kept his baby until he could pull together the money to pay the hospital bills, adding some each day for caring for the baby. This man was obviously distraught but it sounded like he finally borrowed enough money to bring his baby home.

We have heard other instances where the family could not pay for the hospital bills and put the baby up for adoption in exchange for paying for the bills. There are a lot of families for whom things have gotten tight financially that have sent on of their children to a local orphanage to be raised.

On the news we are inundated with clips of Angelina Jolie and Madonna adopting children from developing nations. One gets the sense that these two believe that we can simply adopt the world's poorest children in order to lift the world out of poverty.

I am not saying that we should not adopt those that are truly orphaned. Scripture is clear when it urges us to care for orphans. But we need to be very cautious that we are not assisting in a terrible exploitation of the world's poor. There are so many parents that have no idea what happened to their children because they were essentially forced to sell them. My concern is that the influence of Angelina and Madonna will train our focus on Band-Aid solutions rather than looking at the root causes of poverty.


Tim said...

Don't even get me started. It's not just Angelina and Madonna who think we can buy the world out of poverty, it's a vast majority of the American church.

As an alternative, I think local Christians across the world need to start their own version of the foster care system. That way children at risk can be returned to their parents when things are set right.

A foster agency in Chicago has recently started a volunteer foster program for parents who feel they need a couple of weeks to get out of crisis.

Tiffany said...

Wow, what a gripping post. I am not necessarily of the mindset that adopting a child in a developing country has an adverse effect on children across the country. I really don't think that there are enough people adopting children in orphanages to make the orphanage business a business industry. My family and I hope to adopt someday, not because we think that adopting is the key to bringing children out of poverty, but because if we have the ability to make the life of even one child better, why not?
I would most definitely agree with the post that the solution to bringing children growing up in developing countries out of poverty.
During the time I spent living in Cambodia I had the opportunity to observe hundreds of street children below the age of ten working and collecting trash for a living. Adoption wouldn't effect them one iota. I think that we should adopt a community based approach to solving the problem where the various community members take ownership for the orphans within their community. I know some people who work in Uganda doing this kind of work through a non-profit organization called Fount. You guys should check it out.

ThaiTopher said...

that last comment was made by chris, not tiffany.

M Crane said...

Tim, thanks for your comments. Particularly poignant coming from one with a great deal of experience with the foster system. Your idea is worth exploration, but it would not be without obstacles cross-culturally. In Asia, strong cultural values on hierarchy and indebtedness makes a healthy foster system a challenge.

As it is the wealthier and well-positioned ones in the community offer to care for the children of another family when there is crisis or difficulty. Too often, these "foster" parents refuse to give up the children, keeping them as their own (although often treated as a family servant).

Chris, the orphanage industry is a topic of its own, however my point is that many of the children in orphanages are not actually orphans. The parents simply don't have the financial resources to redeem them from the power structures. When we adopt children who have loving parents that are poorer and disadvantaged, we are abusing financial capability. As an alternative, what can we do to help these parents be sustainably reunited with their own children?

ThaiTopher said...

It doesn't seem like a smart business decision for the government to take children whose parents owe a debt to the state. It would seem as if the cost for the long term care of the child would far exceed any debt owed by the parents to the state thus further making finances tighter. Maybe the approach that needs to be taken is just a matter of economics. Maybe some economist needs to go over there and show them on paper how counter-intuitive their idea is. Although, modern logic doesn't always work in Asian countries, maybe it really wouldn't work.

Wendy said...

"Your idea is worth exploration, but it would not be without obstacles cross-culturally. In Asia, strong cultural values on hierarchy and indebtedness makes a healthy foster system a challenge."

And that's the crux of it. Two words: worldview transformation.

Great post! Thanks for addressing a hard issue.

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