Recently I had the chance to present a webinar for Christian Alliance for Orphans on a topic I’m passionate about: the intersection between orphan care and economic development.
These two worlds rarely intersect – it’s uncommon to hear a talk about economic development at an orphan summit and unusual to hear a presentation about orphans and vulnerable children at an economic development conference. Yet these two worlds are more connected than we might initially realize.
The Bible is full of clear calls to care for the most vulnerable of society – and no one is more vulnerable than an orphan. (James 1:27 is just one of the many verses making an unmistakable call to care for the orphan.) I am passionate about adoption and an enthusiastic supporter of anyone working to ensure that children are raised in loving families.
But working for a microfinance organization, I also have a tendency to dig into the numbers. And when I did this with orphans, I was surprised by what I found. A large portion of our world’s “orphans” actually have a living parent.
Percentage of children in orphanages with one surviving parent.
–Sri Lanka: 92%
After seeing these statistics, I realized that many orphans are actually sent to orphanages because their parents didn’t believe they could care for them. Because of poverty. These are economic orphans, not orphans where both living parents are dead.
So if we are serious about solving the orphan crisis, we also have to combat the underlying issue of poverty.
A Complementary Approach
If we want to have a substantial impact on the orphan crisis, we need to discover how to foster economic development and create job opportunities. In my work with microfinance, we discovered that when we equip entrepreneurs to expand their business, they are creating additional resources and investing these resources into their families. They are taking care of their children and others in the community. They are inconspicuously combating the orphan crisis.
International adoption can be beautiful, but to ensure that every child has a home, we must not overlook the incredible talent and resources available in each local community. See Mama Atiya’s story.
For more information, see the following:
- Adoption touched our family and friends in such a significant way that we created a children’s book on international adoption (Mommy’s Heart Went POP!).
- When Building Orphanages Isn’t Enough
- Community-Based Orphan Care: Africa Models a New Approach to its Orphan Crisis by Mission Frontiers magazine
*Statistics taken from the Better Care Network (BCN)
*Photo by Jeremy Cowart