In the 1890s, people didn’t live very long. The average age from the late 1880s was, in fact, in the 40s. So orphanages became a way for these young children whose parents died to have a home. Currently there are 143 million orphans across the world.
We normally think of orphanages as a forlorn location, and perhaps an evil place. Especially in developing nations, it can be the case. But it’s not necessarily true. Richard McKenzie, quoted in a New York Times article, grew up in an orphanage which gave him stability and permanence, and he wishes the positive scenarios would be brought more to light.
Our current system, which is generally accepted as Foster Care, is not designed for consistency. We now have 500,000 American children in foster care. On the good side, they can receive a positive, regular, caring lifestyle. On the negative side, it can seem that ‘life is a suitcase.’ You move again, and again, from one home to another, never sure what you will find. There can be a strong sense of homelessness. Establishing trust, giving and receiving love, and cultivating long-term relationships can have little chance for survival. Which means little chance of success as a person, notwithstanding professionally.
In either case, consistency and love need to rule the day. May we continue to work towards helping children find their right sense of home, which we all deserve: A place of comfort, consistency and caring.
Silicon Valley Children’s Fund, Silicon Valley, California, USA. Excellence in foster care.