What’s an orphan?

Our Bethesda children, who are they?  Frankly there are many kinds and types of orphans.  In fact we now use the term orphaned and vulnerable children as a way to include all types of children who “face the world without the provision, protection and nurture that parents uniquely provide” (CAFO On Understanding Orphan Statistics found here).

Here are some descriptions that may raise your awareness about orphaned and vulnerable children and the care options available for them.  Understanding these is basic to sorting through the overwhelming statistics and numbers that are a part of orphan care in any part of the world.

A single orphan is a child who has lost one parent and for some reason the remaining parent is unknown or unable to provide parental care.  Currently 19 of the children in families at Bethesda Outreach are single orphans.

A double orphan is a child who has lost both parents.  Of our current 43 children, 2 are double orphans.

3 of our children have parents who may be alive but have abandoned the child.  These children were left at a neighbor’s house, a hospital or in a dustbin with no further contact from the parents.

19 of our children are classified as vulnerable children.  These children’s parents are both alive but the children cannot stay with them due to circumstances at home (abusive, neglectful, etc.).

An orphan care continuum establishes a pathway and options for vulnerable children to be cared for in the best possible setting.  Our local South African social workers have explained that the guidelines for placement of vulnerable children are quite well defined. The first option is always reunification with parents if there are any in the picture.  The next option is foster care placement with extended family members such as aunts, uncles or grandparents.  If these options are not possible, the third may be placement with an older sibling if there is a sibling of age, in a child-headed household.  Foster care with non-relatives may also be an option at this point.

The final option is placement in a children’s home setting such as Bethesda Outreach.  Children are placed with us and into our families with the understanding that they have no other place to go and will likely spend their lives here as a member of one of our families.  Our Bethesda families act as foster families providing as much permanence as possible without actually adopting.

Now you know our children at Bethesda Outreach better.  All orphaned and vulnerable children need special and individualized care.  God has raised Bethesda up to place HIV/AIDS affected children without any other options for care into loving and Christ centered families.  Our vision, motivated and empowered by the gospel, is to place and reach more children in families by helping area churches become the driving force in this incredible work of compassionate care.