We need a more sustainable solution to the global orphan crisis

In this opinion piece for the Christian Post, Kristi Gleason, vice president of global programs at Bethany Christian Services, explains why the US Christian community and others should be working to end the institutional care of children and promote family reunification and family-based care for children. "A family setting best supports a child’s spiritual, physical, psychological, social, and emotional needs. I urge Christians, churches and global outreach organizations across the U.S. during this National Foster Care Month to help us in this movement to support families, reunify children in orphanages with their families and establish foster care systems around the world, because every child is made in the image of God, and each of them matters," says Gleason.

Gleason notes the decades of research that point to the negative developmental impacts that institutionalization has on children and the attachment issues that arise from the lack of a consistent primary caregiver and the rotation of volunteers and workers in and out of a child's life for children in orphanages and care homes. "Think about your own family," she says. "If something awful were to happen, you wouldn’t want your child to go to an orphanage. Not even one with toys, a school and a swing set."

Furthermore, Gleason writes about evidence from UNICEF that indicates that "an estimated 90 percent of 'orphaned' children around the world actually have at least one living parent. Some parents surrender children to an orphanage because an extenuating circumstance – poverty, illness, regional violence, war or displacement – leads them to that point. If my child is in an orphanage, they think, at least they’ll eat. At least they’ll have a chance to go to school. At least they’ll have a chance at life." But, Gleason adds, "poverty should never be a reason to place a child in an orphanage." She urges the Western Church to move towards supporting foster care for vulnerable children, saying "it is time to stand against orphanage-based care and instead support local, community-based foster care around the world. Foster care was the right decision in the U.S. in the early 1900s and it’s the right decision now on a Global stage."