24 July 2019

Christian magazine asks if the Church’s support of orphanages is now doing more harm than good

“The tide is turning. Time is running out for orphanages.” Dr Krish Kandiah calls on Christians to help children around the world find a home life beyond orphanages

Joseph joined his new family after suffering years of neglect in an orphanage. With their love and encouragement, he is beginning to overcome the trauma of his early life and grows stronger and more mobile every day.

 

Writing in the latest issue of Premier Christianity magazine, popular Christian author, speaker and broadcaster Dr Krish Kandiah recalls the experience of his own mother, rescued from a remote orphanage in India. Observing how tragedy, discrimination and poverty continue to have a similar impact on young lives today, he urges the UK Church to help replace orphanages with loving families for millions of children around the world. Krish asks whether Christians’ long history of supporting orphanages is starting to do more harm than good.

Krish is the founding director of Home for Good, a charity seeking to make a real difference in the lives of vulnerable children by finding loving homes for children in the UK care system. In an interview we undertook with Krish earlier this year, and something we’ll share more of in the coming weeks, he explained that Home for Good was started to call the Church across the UK to action: “When we first started the charity, the numbers were there, it was around 5,000 children in the UK only, waiting for adoption. There was a shortfall of about 9,000 foster families across the UK. Through the various networks and connections we had, it was pretty easy to reach to about 15,000 churches. If just one new family per church steps up, the rest of the church wraps around them, then we can meet the entire need. It’s been phenomenal to see how the Church steps up and offers genuine practical support. At Home for Good we recognise that family is one of the most precious and wonderful things that we have in our lives.”

This is how Krish came to realise that, in the UK and US care systems, residential care is used as an absolute last resort. For decades now we have closed our orphanages and have worked hard to promote family-based care—reunification, kinship care, fostering and adoption. But at the same time, we in the UK and US have continued to export and support orphanages all around the world. This is a major discrepancy. We have bolstered a system abroad that we would deem entirely unsuitable and unhealthy for our own children. “If it’s not good enough for our children, it shouldn’t be good enough for anyone’s children,” Krish tells us.

The Western Church has been supporting orphanages around the world out of a sense of love, generosity and positive action. Unintentionally this has resulted in confining children to institutions that, at best, are not helping them to thrive and flourish. At worst, institutions are causing untold damage through abuse and neglect. Krish not only recognised how UK churches provide generous and well-meaning support to orphanages, he and his wife even considered running an overseas orphanage after retirement. “On one hand, I celebrated my own mother’s story of being freed from an orphanage in India, and on the other I have helped support orphanages in places like Zambia and Uganda,” he says in the Premier Christianity piece. But since discovering that orphanages don’t actually protect children, and are proven to harm them, he decided to help address misconceptions by educating, inspiring and encouraging Christians to think through how they want to help. Instead of supporting orphanages, Christians and churches can have a huge impact, supporting the work to reunite children with their natural families, or to build a new family to love them.

“The tide is turning. Time is running out for orphanages,” Krish writes. “If we act now we can make sure that each child in an orphanage who ought to be in a family is helped as soon as possible. Tracing, assessing and supporting birth families or finding appropriate adoptive or fostering families need to be our top priorities. If a child in an orphanage is someone’s daughter, son, grandchild, niece, nephew, or sibling then let’s work together to restore those relationships.”

To know more

We are also partnering with Home for Good on their new Homecoming Project, launching in August.

You can read Krish’s full article on the Premier Christianity website.

We’ve put together a resource for churches wishing to find out more in response to Krish’s article: hopeandhomes.org/christianity