Can there be too many orphanages?

Can there be too many orphanages? May 28, 2011

According to some experts on African orphans, there are now too many orphanages in Africa.  How can that be?  Can there be too many orphanages?

Actually, as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, too many orphanages have been built in parts of Africa with the results that 1) many of them are overcrowded and understaffed, and 2) many of their occupants are not true orphans OR are orphans but have extended family members who would gladly take care of them if they had the resources.

Let me be clear…neither I nor anyone else I know of have anything against well-run orphanages anywhere.  However, there’s a better way than long term care in an institution.  It’s called “Kinship Care” and is being promoted by several NGO’s (non-government, non-profit organizations).  In fact, there is a consensus among experts on African orphan care that Kinship Care is, in most cases, better for the child’s well being than long term orphanage care.

See for example:

But there’s a problem.  Many American evangelicals (especially) are so dedicated to orphanages (especially in Africa) that they don’t want to hear this message.  They keep building orphanages many of which are inadequate for the flourishing of their occupants.

Some of the resistance to Kinship Care of orphans has to do with a conviction that orphans in orphanages are more likely to hear the gospel and be raised in a “Christian” environment where they will be exposed to Christianity (often also “The American Way”). 

Other Christians, however, are simply ignorant of the statistics showing conclusively that, in most cases, care of orphans by extended family members and/or within their own home communities in foster homes better promotes their physical and psychological well being.

Many Christian advocates of Kinship Care of orphans in Africa and elsewhere are trying to get American churches to link up with African churches to provide financial support to families to raise their related children.  Many children being raised in orphanages have grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins, etc., who would gladly raise them if they could.

IF you are an influencer and/or decision maker in your church or Christian organization, please consider supporting Kinship Care of orphans rather than orphanages (insofar as there are already enough orphanages in a particular part of Africa which is the case in much of Africa).

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