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Why Revisit Orphan Care? - Examining the Orphan Care System Through the Lens of Empathy

Updated: Nov 14, 2023



What is the most critical question for the Church to be asking when it comes to caring for orphans and vulnerable children?


I believe the most important questions that we should be asking ourselves are... What's going to illuminate true empathy? What would we want for our own children? What would we want for ourselves?


About 80% of kids in orphanages have one, if not both of their parents, that are still alive. So they're being raised as orphans, or what we call a "social orphan" or a "poverty orphan".


Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. - James 1:27

When we talk about caring for orphans, we must keep in mind that there isn't just one singular understanding of this word that we find in Scripture. Our calling to care for orphans must start with a realization that children outside of parental care encompass more than just kids in orphanages or foster care, but also includes children in refugee settings, conflict areas, and those caught in trafficking situations - children that are separated from their families, facing abuse, exploitation, or neglect. How we define the term "orphan" affects the types of services or solutions that we, the Church, are called to provide.


In many Western countries, the prevailing approach to orphan care has gradually shifted towards a foster care system. While this system is not without its challenges and flaws, it signifies an effort to place children in family-based settings, aiming for stability, attachment, and long-term well-being. Western nations recognize the importance of keeping children within their communities, preserving their cultural identity, and reducing the trauma of separation.


Conversely, in many regions of the Global South, especially in places like Southeast Asia and East Africa, the reliance on institutionalized orphanages persists and are majority funded by the Western Church. Few would choose an institutional orphanage as the ideal environment for their children, where impersonal care and detachment from familial bonds are common. There is a disconnect between what we consider best practice for ourselves versus what we continue to pour money into and perpetuate in the Global South.


Empathy is the way of growth. It's the way of curiosity. We must ask the question, "What would we want for our own children?" We must condition ourselves to empathize with the living situations with these children and place their flourishing back at the center of our care.





 

This excerpt was edited for clarity. Listen to the rest of the episode here and follow the Upwardly Dependent podcast on Spotify.


Guest: Brandon Stiver, One Million Home & Think Orphan Podcast


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