Getting to Zero: Is Closing Orphanages the End Goal?
What does “Getting to Zero” mean? Getting to Zero is the idea that we want to see zero children waiting for families here in our community. Zero kids having to go to bed each night still praying for a mom and dad. No child should be left to wonder whether they are worth of love.
While this sounds like an outrageous goal, we’ve already seen the miraculous happen! The country of Rwanda has already modeled what Getting to Zero can look like, when they made the bold decision to close all their orphanages and get over 3,000 children into family care through the help of the local churches. Looking at their amazing progress – and the remaining challenges – helps paint a picture of what this vision could mean for Orange County.
Now, five years into the work of Getting to Zero the country of Rwanda is approaching its goal of closing all orphanages throughout the country as children are being placed in families out of the orphanage or reunited with their families. Despite this progress, in some orphanages children remain waiting to receive a family – either because finding a willing family is a challenge or often times, there are orphans ages 18 and older who grew up in the orphanage, never learned life skills to survive on their own, and therefore feel unable to leave the orphanage setting. What does all this mean for the work of “Getting to Zero”? Even when orphanages have closed, the task of caring for vulnerable and orphaned children is far from done.
The work of the Orphan Care Initiative goes far beyond simply “closing orphanages.” The tools and training we provide through the work of the local churches in Rwanda is developing a child welfare system for a country that will ensure that no children grow up outside of family care. If you take the case of the United States, we have no orphanages – in their place we have a system for identifying vulnerable and parentless children, sourcing families to foster and adopt them, and training and monitoring those families so that they are successful. If you look at Rwanda through that view, the work has only begun. There is now a stellar example in Western Rwanda – where the Orphan Care Initiative has focused our efforts at the request of the government – of what it looks like to reintegrate children into families well with the wrap around support of the church.
However, much of the rest of the nation returned children to families without the wrap-around support of the churches, which is so critical to the long-term success of an orphanage-free child welfare system. Our most recent Orphan Care PEACE trip saw this firsthand as they conducted trainings in Kimonyi, an example of an area where the orphanage recently closed but families had never received any information on how to address the trauma their children have experienced in the institution. When the government realized these families were struggling, they specifically asked for the Orphan Care Initiative to intervene with training and support.
Getting a child out of an orphanage and into a family is only the start of the journey of helping that child and family succeed long term. In that way, future Orphan Care PEACE teams remain critical to delivering several important, world-view shifting messages:
1) The value and need for adoption in a culture coming out of dependence on orphanages.
2) Teaching churches how to deliver the evidence-based adoptive parent training that allows families to help heal hurts of children who have come from the orphanage and other hard places.
3) The truth that EVERYONE in the church is called to care for the orphan, and the church can help members get on mission in this area in a variety of ways.
The Rwanda Orphan Sponsorship is a piece of this support system designed to help children remain in, reunite with or regain family through adoption. Families brought into the sponsorship program receive support to help care for their child in the form of a monthly amount from their local church. As part of sponsorship, parents become part of a savings group to learn how to grow and manage their money, and they receive lay social work support from the church and agree to attend parenting training. In return, the families agree to use the funds to pay their child’s school fees, enroll them in medical insurance and tithe back to their local church. Because these funds go directly to the family from their local church, many families receiving sponsorship don’t know there is a Western donor on the other end, they just see it as their local church coming alongside to support them.