There are millions of children in the world who have been abandoned by their parents, been forced to leave home because of extreme poverty, or suffered the loss of their parents due to disease or war. Without parental guidance, provision, or love, these children's lives can be wrecked on the street, and they are vulnerable to many forms of exploitation, including the potential of being trafficked.
In recent years, children's homes have acquired a negative reputation—and for good reason. Most orphanages and children's homes provide a very poor developmental environment. For instance, one study of children growing up in orphanages shows that 1 in 3 children becomes homeless, 1 in 5 ends up with a criminal record, and 1 in 10 commits suicide. Furthermore, an analysis of 75 studies in 19 countries found that children raised in orphanages have an IQ 20 points lower on average than their foster care peers.
The majority of children's homes in the developing world accept children with one or more living parent, separating them from their living family members. Although this is often due to the families’ inability to effectively care for their children, it’s still a broken system. In addition, these homes often fail to take sufficient steps to protect children from abuse, and it’s common for the children to struggle with adjusting to life in the outside world once they graduate from the homes.
Despite these weaknesses, however, for the more than 15 million children worldwide who have lost both their parents, we believe the only viable alternative in existence is to place them in loving family homes. The challenge is ensuring that the environment they are placed in is actually developmentally nourishing—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Our Family Home’s Strategy
In our family homes, we strive to create a developmental environment where our children can thrive—from the love that our house parents provide, to the quality of their education and diet, and even the time, space, and materials for them to live out the true purpose of childhood: play. Our model includes the following:
- Limited home sizes: We believe in limiting home sizes in order to create a family-like atmosphere. This allows the house parents to give personal attention to each child, to ensure that all needs are met, and to make each child feel special.
- Loving parents: We take great care in selecting house parents who are nurturing and view each child as their own. Visitors to our homes often cannot distinguish the orphaned children from those naturally born to the parents, and this brings us great joy.
- Education: We believe in the life-changing impact of education for our children. Founded on the core values of love, excellence, and wisdom, our Dream School provides the best education for our children.
Through our family home model, we place a strong emphasis on each of the several dozen environmental factors and parenting practices that developmental science has shown to be crucial for a child's development. These practices are documented, trained on, and tracked closely. We also have strong child protection mechanisms in place to ensure that abuse does not happen, or is promptly discovered in the unfortunate event it does. Additionally, we have first-language English speaking teachers at our school to ensure that our kids get the best education possible, and we have a thorough program for preparing our kids to transition successfully from the home into the real world.
The effectiveness of this model has been developed out of data. The IQ scores of children in our homes were 17 points higher on average than a randomly selected comparison group, and our children outperformed their peers in measures of prosocial behavior, motivation to learn, emotional reactivity, relatedness, and hopelessness. This model is not yet perfected, however, as our children performed worse than their peers on some measures of emotional well-being. Though this is partly explained by the fact that our children have been uprooted from their families, our current plan is to relentlessly work to address these areas until they become a strength, and then, we plan to scale up our family home model around the world.
We are excited to report that our family homes are absolutely flourishing! Currently, we serve 213 children in our 18 homes. In fact, we have recently welcomed 22 new children who are in need of sponsorship! For just $100 a month, every child receives:
- Loving, Christian parents who are investing in their lives.
- A nurturing family environment.
- Basic needs such as shelter, food, clothing, books, toys, personal hygiene items, etc.
- Medical care and counseling.
- Access to a computer and reading programs that are available within each home.
- Regular attendance at an excellent school.
- Community and church activities that play a vital role in their overall development.
If you would be interested in sponsoring a child and playing an integral role in their growth and development, please visit this link to learn more and to meet the children in need of sponsorship. We firmly believe that we are called to serve these children by placing them in loving, family-like homes where we hope to live up to the mission of our children's ministry: to help orphaned and abandoned children become difference makers in their nations. Will you join us?