Haiti (MNN) – Haiti still hasn’t fully recovered from the 2010 earthquake.
After 230,000 people were killed in the destruction, children were forced to live on the streets or go into orphanages. Many parents were even forced to put their children in orphanages because they couldn’t provide for them.
Now, that pattern continues today.
“The biological families, they send their children to the orphanages because they don’t have [the] capacity to pay the school tuition, to pay the school fees, and to pay for the school supplies because in Haiti, the government doesn’t embrace totally the education of the children. So, this is the responsibility of the parents to make sure their children are going to school,” Bethany Christian Services’ Vijonet Demero explains.
A report from 2015 by Independent says there are 32,000 children in Haitian orphanages, of which 80 percent have one or two living parents who want them but cannot provide for them.
However, though so many children depend on the 750 orphanages in the nation, Demero says only 200 orphanages meet government requirements for orphanages.
“We recognize that some children from orphanages, they are living a good life, but the majority, they don’t live a good life… By staying at an orphanage, they don’t have the possibility to go to school. They don’t have the possibility to experience a true life.”
Demero says orphanages don’t set children up for a successful future because they aren’t able to develop professional and appropriate skills to be self-responsible.
However, the biggest problem kids face in the orphanages, Demero says, is that they cannot make intentional and responsible choices for their physical well-being in fighting off sicknesses and viruses.
“I don’t say orphanage is a bad thing, but I would say orphanage … is not the best place for children to live,” Demero says.
“Orphanages exist for people who don’t have parents, but we understand when someone doesn’t have [a] parent, the government should play the role of parent, or the Church should play the role of parent. When the child is staying at the orphanage, he doesn’t have the possibility to experience love, respect, consideration at the orphanage.
Demero says because of this phenomenon, Bethany felt called to action to help children on the streets or in orphanages by starting their family preservation, family reunification, and foster care programs.
Bethany wants children to grow up with strong, hopeful futures and sees that children being embraced by a family is the best way to achieve that.
Their Family Reunification Program identifies children and works to track down their biological families to reunite them.
“When we do family reunification, we have a program called Family Preservation and Empowerment to help families stay together, not continue to send kids to orphanages,” Demero explains.
The program reinforces and empowers biological families so they will not have to send their children back to orphanages.
Children whose biological families Bethany is unable to locate are placed with foster parents who can help prepare the child for their future, show them love, and embrace them as a family.
“One thing that we consider our strength is the fact that we have the capacity to mobilize qualified foster parents. The reason is the fact that most of them, they are Christian. They use the Bible as an instrument to say, ‘Hey, it is a Biblical mandate to take on the children. This is our responsibility as a Church to take care of the children, to speak up for those who cannot speak.’”
Bethany has seen incredible success stories in all the programs. They’ve even seen foster families take on second children and adopt children.
However, some of the greatest challenges in the process are raising awareness among the government officials so they understand the needs of the children and keeping families motivated.
“We are very dynamic as Bethany Global representative[s],” Demero says.
“We are very committed and engaged, but when we are working with people on the field who are not fully engaged or doesn’t understand the concept or not invested too much in the concept, it is a challenge for us to go through the process of family accreditation until the child placement.”
Join Bethany in praying for the ability to raise awareness among government officials and keeping families motivated.
(Header photo courtesy of Bethany Christian Services)