Honduras (MNN) — What’s in the best interest of the child is a question at the forefront of governments and orphan care ministries around the world. And in Honduras, the two groups are coming together to find the best answers.
In 2014, Honduras established the Dirección de Niñez , Adolecencia y Familia, or DINAF, to provide more stringent oversight of orphans and vulnerable children. Now, the agency is working with Orphan Outreach and one other Honduran NGO to develop a pilot program for foster care.
“There’s a lot of residential care here, which is not uncommon in developing countries – especially in Latin America,” says Austin South, Director of Orphan Outreach’s NGO in Honduras. “But there’s not much preventative care, so we’ve noticed a big gap in foster care.”
Past efforts at developing a foster care program in the country have been less than successful. With too few caseworkers and too little training and support for families, many placements were broken.
But with the launch of DINAF, there has been renewed interest in trying to keep children within a family structure, if at all possible. South shares, “They want to get there, but they just don’t quite know how to get there. And so Orphan Outreach, along with another Honduran NGO, are working together to develop a pilot foster care program for the country.”
What makes the pilot program so different is that it will be managed by the NGOs.
South continues, “It would be under the government’s authority and supervision, but it would be completely privatized. And what that means is that Orphan Outreach would be charged, our in-country NGO would be charged with recruiting families, training families, hiring professional staff such as social workers and psychologists, and then evaluating children who could be potential for placement in the families, and then also giving the follow-up case management where social workers and psychologists are visiting the family to help make sure that the placement works.”
South says the focus won’t just be on taking care of the child while they’re in care, but also trying to move that child toward permanency. The NGOs will work with the Honduran government to investigate cases where children are removed from families due to abuse or neglect. Providing additional high-quality resources will help determine if there is opportunity for family reunification or kinship care — or if the child is a candidate for adoption.
One of the key benefits of privatized care is the quality of care that can be provided.
“You can pour resources around one child, and really make an impact, or have the potential to make a higher impact and have a successful placement with that child,” shares South.
He says another key benefit is the type of families recruited to foster. “You can recruit good, solid Honduran Christian families to take care of the needy children in Honduras.
“And all of us in the Christian community can rally behind the truth of what the Bible says — that it is our responsibility as the Church to take care of the orphan and the widow and children who are vulnerable.”
The Honduran NGOs involved in the foster care initiative are doing what they can to help government leaders better understand the full continuum of care needed for children.
“Every place in the spectrum, every type of care in the spectrum has its place. Orphanages are never going to go away 100 percent because there are profiles of children who will not last in foster care — it just wouldn’t be the best type of care for them. And they need a more structured, therapeutic residential setting. And there are children who wouldn’t be best served in residential placement and would be better served in foster care or domestic adoption,” South explains.
“There are voices of reason at the table saying ‘There’s a place for that.’ And so we need to raise the level of quality in residential care while developing other infrastructure for the kids.”
As the pilot foster care program is developed and launched in Honduras, South encourages people to pray.
“Actively pray – not just, ‘Hey, I’ll pray for it,’ and then you remember it once. But I mean quiet time, on your knees praying, not just for the children who are at risk and vulnerable in Honduras, but around the globe.”
And he believes there is opportunity for the Church in the United States to become more involved in orphan care initiatives in Honduras and other countries around the world.
“Rather than just saying, ‘I’m going to support this orphanage,’ look also at the alternative forms of care and who’s doing it and how can [you can] get involved.”
South encourages, “We as the Church in general really have to start taking responsibility for the orphans in our own backyard and around the world in a real way, because I think the Bible calls us to do that.”