What are some tips for visiting orphanages?

What are some tips for visiting orphanages?

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  • Answer ✓

     Domestically, orphanages do not exist in the traditional sense.  The United States has a complex foster care system which aids in the developmental care of children placed temporarily within family homes.  You can read about the history of the country's movement from traditional orphanages to the foster care system here:  https://adoption.com/wiki/End_of_American_Orphanages .  While the foster care system has a primary goal of caring for children, placement is often temporary.  Children in foster care are rehomed for a period of time when their own family is unable to care for them.  Many foster children return to their families of origin once appropriate measures, often court ordered, have been made to ensure the safety and functionality of the home and therefore the future safety of the child.  It is when a foster child is unable to return home that the child then becomes adoptable.  If your intention for "visiting orphanages" is to learn about children who are adoptable through the foster care system, you may call your local department of social services or begin with this link:  https://www.adoptuskids.org/meet-the-children/search-for-children/state-photolists.

     Internationally, orphanages exist but are a growing "voluntourism" problem, meaning the infrastructure of such caring-giving institutions have fostered an environment of tourism revenue and child exploitation in some countries.  Parents of poorer families are often pressured into putting their children into these orphanages for the purposes of education and proper nutrition, but these children do indeed have families.  Here's an editorial on such practices with activism tips.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-31/improving-orphanage-voluntourism/9375614.

    All this to say, if your intention is to visit international orphanages, do your research.  Adoption and volunteerism is a wonderful thing; to participate in the exploitation of children is not.  Unfortunately, political unrest and economic instability can cause people to do amazingly wrong things, even under the veil of caring for children.  Find a legitimately recognized international aid organization or faith-based effort to work with, one who has a history and relationship with the orphanage with which they are partnered.  Ask questions with wisdom.  Where do these children come from?  Who are their parents?  Are they alive?  Why are these children here? 

  • Answer ✓
    The above poster gave some fantastic tips. I definitely echo the "tourism" aspect mentioned. Visiting an orphanage can seem like a very inherently "Good" thing but may be done for the wrong reasons. Go in with an open mind and with the idea that you are there to learn. Going in with the idea that you are giving something to these children is a very shallow ideal. This surface level thinking can cloud the true issue. Mission trips and volunteering can be a wonderful thing, but your goal should be to go and try to figure out how to help the bigger picture and in the long term. 

    It will also depend on your reasoning for visiting an orphanage. If it is to visit a child you may be adopting, that is a whole different story. However, if it is as a mission of sorts in a short term  capacity, it may be much more beneficial to donate the money that would have been spent on the trip for those who can make an impact in the day to day. If you have a desire to help children, consider foster care. This is a mission field in and of itself! 

    If you do visit an orphanage for whatever reason, I would avoid taking pictures or at least not posting them on social media.  The children have a right to privacy. Again, you should be there to learn and take in the experience. It will change you. However, it likely won't change the orphanage long term. Take the time to keep your mind and focus on how you can make an impact long term. 
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