In this opinion piece, Sarah Sagley Klotz shares her experience of growing up in a small Christian community in the US, learning about the needs of the world from sermons and videos, and later fully realizing the hardships of vulnerable and orphaned children in the developing world through her travels to Mongolia and North Africa. She remembers feeling
“helpless in the enormity of needs and lost in how [she] could do anything to make any sort of change.”
Her experiences, and the suffering she witnessed, challenged her religious beliefs, her faith, the role of the church, and her own upbringing.
Klotz calls on Christian Churches in the US to engage in what she calls “strategic compassion,” combining compassion with a working knowledge of the issues and challenges, which will ensure the use of best practices in the care of children and families. She discusses some of the negative impacts that institutionalization has on children’s development and wellbeing and highlights recent data that indicate that anywhere from 50-90% of children in orphanages worldwide have at least one living parent. Many children are placed in institutions, says Klotz, because their parents or extended family are unable to care for them (primarily due to reasons related to poverty). She compares this to her own life, imagining what it would be like to have to send her nieces or nephews to an orphanage after the loss of their parents, because she was unable to provide for them, an extremely difficult decision that many families face.
“This is astounding,” says Klotz, “and more work should be done to provide families with the support to keep them together and children out of facilities.” Klotz urges the Christian religious community of the United States to research and educate itself on the best practices for making lasting change in the lives of these families.