the institutionalization of children

The organization I work with is called Orphan Advocacy. We do just that, advocate for orphans, that they may have a family.

My office is inside of a state-run orphanage. Today on my way to a co-worker’s office across the way, I decided to stop in to the baby house. 18 children live there, most between the ages of 0-2. I fed a bottle, burped and held a little, under-nourished baby. Sometimes it is good to remember why I am doing what I am doing and not just be in paperwork all day.

It wasn’t the baby that grabbed my attention today. It was a 13 year old girl named A who was helping out, but also lives in the center. From the moment I saw her, she caught my eye. Many of the teenage girls here have a rebellious attitude, but not A. She was sad.

I left the baby house and she followed me, asking if we could talk. We sat down and she told me she had been here a month and could I please help her. She said she got picked up by the police when she was on the street doing errands. Her family doesn’t know she is here. Nobody visits and she isn’t allowed phone calls. She has a mom and some siblings at home. She cried. I cried. I didn’t want to cry in front of her, but I didn’t really have a choice. I told her I was very sad for what she was telling me and that our office would investigate to see what we could find out about her case.

In our work, we talk a lot about preventing the institutionalization of children. Today I was deeply impacted by the meaning of this. We talk about shortening the time children are in centers, so that they don’t become institutionalized. What I realized today that there is a great evil in the fact that a child finds themselves in a center and away from family. The length of time doesn’t really matter.

*Note: In the time I’ve been writing this blog, we have already found out what is going on with her case. She was taken off the street by police, but it was later discovered that she had been raped and was being prostituted by her mom. Thus, no visits and no phone calls. At this time, she will be sent to a special home for adolescent girls who have been sexually abused. The state is investigating her mother and looking to remove her siblings from the home. My heart breaks even further.

Pray for A and her family. Pray for these little kids running around outside my window.

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1 Comment

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One response to “the institutionalization of children

  1. Sue Strom

    I was so touched by this commentary. Children want to be with their families, no matter how awful that situation is.

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