It Takes A Village

Sometimes that village includes an orphanage, a school, a rescue center, a feeding program. Sometimes it includes volunteers, both foreign and from the local communities, engineers and project managers. Sometimes the village is located in a slum, on a farm, deep in a jungle, in a high rise in New York city, or a small office in West Hollywood. There might even be a member of that village in your own home. However the village is comprised, everyone’s heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

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Sometimes mom and dad pass away, sometimes they become too ill, sometimes there is not enough food, and unfortunately, sometimes not enough love. There are a myriad of complicated reasons why children end up at risk, so much so that they are placed in an orphanage, often by heartbroken parents who feel as if they have no choice, or by government officers who don’t know where else to send a child they find on the street.

I’ll admit, when we first embarked on our journey to start Kitechild and help these children, we thought that orphanages were the only choice they had, so we started there. And our thoughts were in a way true: orphanages are often the only choice for an at-risk child, because in the countries we work in, there are no alternative child protection services. No CPS, and little to non-existent foster care or adoption. After 6 years of research and being in the field, we know that an orphanage is only one option out of many, and at the end of the day, should be considered a last resort. But until better solutions start being implemented, for many children, it’s either an orphanage or the street.

Orphanages are currently getting a (rightly deserved) harsh scrutiny in the media. Many organizations are working to shut them down. We agree that they should be the last resort for children, but we think that a safety net must be put in place before we shut them down. Otherwise, children end up on the streets, end up being trafficked, abused, either in their homes or as runaways. They end up becoming malnourished or dropping out of school, when parents cannot afford to provide their basic needs.

So, how did we start brainstorming on better solutions? How did we manage to evolve and become a trusted NGO in the field? We listened to the community. We listened to the government officers. We listened to the teachers, to the healthcare workers, to the parents, to the orphanage directors, to the social workers. And most importantly, we listened to the children. Why were they in an orphanage? Where was their family? How can we prevent the breaking up of families, but still provide a safe shelter when children are experiencing danger at home?

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Which brings us back to the safety net – it must be cast by the entire community. It involves the parents, the teachers, the social workers, and yes, the government too must step up their commitment to seeing these at-risk children thrive. At Kitechild, we are helping to build that safety net through our sustainable projects which empower communities to support their children. Projects such as greenhouses, clean water access, and chicken farms generate income for much needed support including social work, re-integration with family, access to nutrition, and access to education.

Our projects employ local community members, because we believe in starting from the ground up. We know that the local community knows what is best for their children, but sometimes they need the financial means to lift themselves out of poverty. We hope to employ parents of at risk children in the near future, so that they are able to have income to support and keep their families together. Our projects provide fresh, nutritious produce to children who would otherwise suffer from malnutrition. Our projects teach children about entrepreneurship, about empowerment, about self-sufficiency—they see that their ability to thrive is not dependent on the charity of others. Self-sufficiency and personal fulfillment comes from within, and they are capable and deserving of breaking the cycle of poverty and living healthy, joyful lives.

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There is one final member of this village that plays an important role: you. To our donors and supporters, past, present, and future, you are very much a part of this village. We couldn’t cast this safety net without you. We hope we can continue to count on your support as we all work together to help at-risk children break the cycles of poverty and lead happy and productive lives.

Some of the children living at the Ashirvad Home.

Adopting the Right Questions: Understanding Orphans in India

by Jacqueline Monet, Social Media Manager

 

According the the Washington Post, there are over 30 million orphaned children in India and last year, only 2,500 were adopted. As someone who works for an organization that transforms living conditions for orphaned and vulnerable children and has partner homes in India, I can’t help but ask, why?

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Ashirvad Home Tuni, India

 

Our liaison in India, Shobha, recently wrote to us after meeting with the District Officer of Social Welfare in Chennai. Contrary to what many people believe, the majority of children living in orphanages have one or both living parents. They are often placed in orphanages due to poverty, stigma, abuse, and other difficult situations. Shobha relayed that the Indian government verifies that each  family that sends a child to an orphanage lacks the resources to adequately support their child. Most of the orphanages are run by private organizations, under the jurisdiction of the government. Unfortunately, though, it makes it difficult to get these children proper care “because no one can question our government,” according to Shobha.

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LAMP Home Rajamundry, India

 

Would it be better to give aid to the families of children who have no other recourse but to place their children in homes? Is that how the Indian government should allocate its funding, over building institutions? It’s a complicated question about a complex situation. Regardless of what might be the best course of action, how do you account for the millions of children in India living in orphanages and the comparatively miniscule amount of adoptions? In my own personal research, it was hard to come to a conclusive answer as to why it is so difficult to adopt a child from India.

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Adoptions in India are complicated. Families in India are often under more pressure to adopt children who are aligned with their ethnicity, religion and social status. According to Shobha, families often get involved in the adoption process and end up stalling or halting it through concerns of how the child was born, to whom and into which caste. While the caste system is outlawed in India, the legislation is so poorly implemented that it barely makes a difference. Other considerations like the color of their child’s skin and health conditions also are major factors. As such, many children are virtually unadoptable, especially if they have a disability or a health issue.

Even when adoptions happen within India, they remain a long, arduous process that usually takes between 3 and 4 years. Since it is such a difficult process, the illegal adoption market is a huge problem in India. This has resulted in more missing children and less children going to eligible adoption agencies. There are even more additional cultural reasons that need to be taken into consideration, as well. For example, adoptions by Indian citizens who are Hindus, Sikhs, Jains or Buddhists are governed by the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956, which prohibits the adoption of more than one child of the same sex.

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Ziah Home Hyderabad, India

 

For those looking to adopt from other countries, such as the US, the process remains challenging. It’s  very difficult for Americans to adopt Indian children, despite the fact that the U.S. adopts more children internationally and domestically, as the rest of the world combined, according Adam Pertman, author of “Adoption Nation.” Indian authorities first have to determine that the child would be better placed outside of India. The Indian government prioritizes finding suitable Indian parents for adoption over foreign adoptions. Often this means that only disabled and/or older children are eligible for outside adoptions. In addition, certain parameters exclude would-be parents, for example, same-sex couples are not eligible to adopt Indian children.

Meanwhile, the foster care system in India largely remains a mystery to me, due to the lack of information found online. Shobha found that foster care in India is very limited to specific situations, such as a trial period for parents considering adopting a given child. There are alternatives to the traditional orphanage system, however. Shobha was taken by our partner home, Christ Faith Home, to visit an organization where there are women living with their children. These women have been left by their husbands, widowed or have found themselves in another desperate situation of some kind. The home was setup into apartments, with nearly 30 women residing there. The women are able to keep their children and are even learning skills so that they can enter the workforce, like tailoring.

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Source: Christ Faith Home Chennai, India

 

Christ Faith Home recently welcomed two infants into their home. The police brought both babies to them, after one was given to the police and the other was abandoned on a train. “The babies were so cute looking, seeing them I was broken,” said Shobha. She is continuing to visit orphanages and to research their major challenges. Kitechild works to support communities and provide the best lives for children, wherever they might find themselves within the complexity of poverty. It is our job to better the lives of vulnerable children and to care for them, whatever their circumstances might be, and the best way we can do that is through understanding and compassion.

 

Sources:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/india-moves-to-improve-shameful-record-on-orphan-adoptions/2015/03/20/cefd4fce-c82a-11e4-bea5-b893e7ac3fb3_story.html

 

http://www.businessinsider.in/Child-Adoption-Still-a-long-way-to-go-in-India/articleshow/46986727.cms

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/7597109/Caste-discrimination-against-Indias-untouchables-is-an-international-issue.html
http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/16/world/international-adoption-main-story-decline/