Wherever there exists corruption, violence or oppression, children seem to bear the brunt of its effects. Families who once were healthy and strong can quickly be torn apart by the stress of unemployment, food insecurity, and trauma suffered at the hands of authority figures. Parents make choices they never imagined possible, and the instinct to survive can push aside the best interest of children involved. In many cases, little ones are given up to orphanages or children’s homes by parents who can’t see a way out of extreme poverty, and dream of a better life for their children. Institutions promise an education, good food, friends and a future, all in exchange for parental rights. It’s a choice that parents often believe is the most loving one they could make.
We first met some of these parents in a small town located on the border of Thailand and Myanmar. Decades of violence and oppression of ethnic minorities in Myanmar has seen millions of people fleeing into Thailand in search of refuge and survival. Orphanages and children’s homes abound in this area. Children are raised in an artificial environment, where Mom & Dad are staff who could choose to leave at any time, and where they feel the stigma of being ‘an orphan’ among their schoolmates. Cases of abuse are rampant and children who age out of orphanages are left without a strong support system to call on as they face the challenges of adult life, and without a real home to return to.
As we have worked with this population and advocated for the best interest of children facing institutionalization, we have seen very similar situations all over the developing world. Did you know that over 80% of all children in orphanages worldwide have at least one living parent? A large majority of these children could return home to joyful parents if proper support were in place for families. Where the biological family is unsafe due to abuse or other disfunction, alternate family-based care can also be established.
Many institutions are funded by well-meaning groups in the developed world who have never heard of the harm done to children’s development. Compasio is here to bring the good news of family-based care to children, families and organizations everywhere, who are hungry for an approach that prioritizes the best interest of every child. We are currently putting systems in place to launch specialized groups of social workers equipped to help institutions make the transition to family-based care models.