Ghana (MNN) –The government of Ghana is changing its approach to childcare through the Care Reform. The renewed focus on families rather than orphanages has been shaped through partnership with Bethany Christian Services and Ghana Without Orphans.
Changing the Approach
The idea is simple; keep vulnerable kids with families not institutions. Those families can take the form of foster homes, adoptions, or reunification. Home-based solutions offer children a better chance at success and improved emotional well being.
Bethany brought foster care expertise and a good reputation thanks to a successful Ethiopian program, says Naa Adjorkor Mohenu, Country Director of Bethany Ghana. The partnership begain in 2012. Now, the nonprofit is an integral part of policy change, providing needed technical support.
“We became very core in the government’s process with the care reform system… As we speak now, Bethany has been able to help the government launch, it’s foster care training model, which has all the steps in training perspective foster care,” Mohenu says.
What’s Wrong with Institutions/Orphanages?
The Bible asks believers to care for widows and orphans, but what is the best form care can take? While food, water, and shelter are necessities, so is emotional support, love, and a family.
Orphanages aren’t always able to support these pillars of development, and the resulting damage is often permanent. Research shows caregivers are often detached, overworked and not consistent. This results in children with stunted physical and emotional growth, issues that persist into adulthood. Read a summary of these findings here.
Of particular concern to the government of Ghana was that many of these children in orphanages were not actually orphans.
“They did a survey and realize that most of the children…either have one parent, a living parent or even have both parents alive, but were rather taking these children into the orphanages because to them the orphanage looked like they had the best physical facilities to provide for their children,” Mohenu says.
For families in poverty, orphanages looked like a way to give their children the best chance at life. Realizing what was happening, Ghana determined major changes would need to be made to reform the childcare system before the problem got out of hand.
Enter Bethany and their ideas to promote family based care.
What Bethany Brings to the Equation
Thanks to decades of foster care experience, Bethany designed a formalized foster care system. This includes family assessments for foster families and child assessments. Both receive background checks and Bethany provides perspective foster families with 40 hours of training. Bethany works to match a child’s background and needs with what a family can provide, Mohenu says.
Some children remain in orphanages, but measures are being taken to improve their care.
“We are looking at the best practices of orphanages, the few ones that are left to ensure that even if a child stays there for one night, the child gets the best. We train them with topics like attachment, bonding, and trauma and all those things to look out for when a vulnerable child comes into their care,” Mohenu says
Bethany encourages these orphanages to make the child’s stay as short as possible and place them with a family.
How Can I Help?
Most donors to organizations like orphanages and adoption services come from Western countries, Mohenu says. Donors often want to see something tangible, such as a child they are supporting or sponsoring. This can lead them to well-meaning support for institutions and orphanages. However, this often isn’t what’s best for the child or community. Instead, Mohenu would like to see more holistic support that keeps children in families and protects their psychological development.
“They can still help a child within their biological family on alternative family and still see the impact,” she says. Rather than rejecting donations, they want to use give those funds more impact by investing in family based solutions and care.
One such program uses $30 per month to support a child and their family, providing food, shelter, and medication. Learn more here.
How Can I Pray?
Mohenu asks believers to pray for this family-based initiative. Changes of government and changes of partner leadership can bring progress to a standstill if these new leaders don’t share the same vision. These obstacles are a consistent threat. Pray initiatives promoting family-based solutions will continue to be supported by those with influence.
Pray more churches will become involved in these programs, as churches are Bethany’s primary partner for advocacy and recruitment. Church support keeps programs like this one running.
Header photo courtesy of Bethany Christian Services via Facebook.