It is the belief of Kingdom Families in accordance with Tanzanian policy as well as scripture that family-based care is the highest standard of care for a child. We believe that every child has a right to be raised in a family.
According to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare under the National Guidelines for Improving the Quality of Care, Support, and Protection for the Most Vulnerable Children in Tanzania, “families and households should be the first alternatives and orphanages and children’s home placement should be considered as a last resort.” When good family-based care and support is not provided, children grow up with the risk of being “culturally detached from his/her community and practices” as well as face difficulty in socializing with their community and peers.
According to various studies including those from the Lumos Foundation, up to 90% of the population of children that reside in orphanages worldwide have at least one living parent. Even then if a child has lost both parents (a double orphan), they typically still have living kin, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles and older siblings.
It is our conviction that if every child has a right to grow up within a family then it is our responsibility to redefine what we see as need and aid these children in receiving care that is going to be most beneficial to their mental, physical and spiritual health.
The Kingdom of God is not an Orphanage
We believe in seeking solutions that strive for the building up of the family.
“A Father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:5-6). God purposed and created two institutions as a part of His design for the Kingdom – church and family. The Kingdom of God is not an orphanage. God sets the lonely in families – not in centers or on streets. Although that is the reality that so many children face, we as Christians ought to strive for something better. We strive to reflect God’s Kingdom down on this earth; to see Kingdom families established, grown and supported.
We seek solutions that are based in family. There are various issues that arise in a child’s life that institutional care seems to solve such as taking care of their health and education. But, above all else, we must pursue solutions within the framework of the greatest place of care for the child, which is the family. While the institutional approach seems to solve some issues, if it serves as the long term care provider, it creates more detrimental ones. At Kingdom Families we believe that the church has the greatest responsibility to care for orphans, widows, and families in need. We empower the community and the local church in the direction that God has given.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly, defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9)
The message of adoption is a message of God’s heart. God sets the lonely in families, He defends the cause of the widow, the orphan, and all who are destitute. As Christians, we ourselves received this adoption to sonship – the Spirit of the Lord that testifies that we are heirs of His Kingdom. If we ourselves were adopted and knew what it was to be orphans, but are now heirs of God’s kingdom, we must replicate this reality here on earth. We believe what scripture teaches, that children are a heritage from the Lord (Psalm 127:3). We believe that every family that receives a child into their home is reflecting the very truth of our sonship and exhibiting the Kingdom of God. Whether it be through adoption, family services or advocacy, the strengthening of families is a call that God has placed on the lives of his children and a call that Kingdom Families seeks to answer in East Africa.
Why Not Orphanage-Based Care?
Apart from the fact that an orphanage is not the ideal care environment for a child’s health and well-being, there are a series of psychosocial traumas that arise for children within institutional care.
Mental Health and Psychosocial Issues
Reactive Attachment Disorder
Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is a result of children not being able to form a healthy emotional attachment to a primary caregiver – specifically a mother – before the age of five. Further studies have shown that for a child to continue to develop relationally and emotionally, attachment within the first few months to a year of a child’s life is critical. For many institutionalized children, RAD is exacerbated by neglect, abuse and inconsistent care providers. Healthy attachment develops when a child is able to receive continual physical touch and consoling and have their needs met from a loving caretaker. It is through an appropriate attachment that a child is able to develop a healthy understanding of the world, themselves and others. How a child learns to love, trust, relate to others and regulate their own emotions are greatly affected by a child’s ability to attach.
Since the first few years of life are critical to brain development, institutionalized children can experience motoric and speech developmental delays. Apart from biological and environmental factors, the conditions of caregiving in residential care facilities can negatively affect a child’s development. Such factors include turnover of staff, lack of boundaries in relationship with youth, and the overall risk of abuse and neglect. Children growing up in an institution develop mentally and behaviorally in such a way that reflects their institution rather than their culture. This creates a dependence upon the institution and an inability to acclimate into society. Another factor contributing to this handicap is isolation. When a child grows up within a family they grow up within community – they experience life acclimated to culture. When a child grows up in an orphanage they grow up isolated from their community and culture and therefore isolated from that part of their identity and development.
Family and community based care is the greatest service to vulnerable children in order to protect their social, physical and psychological well-being. When these services aren’t provided, these children end up being abused, exploited and neglected. When the psychosocial and mental health needs of vulnerable children, who have already faced the trauma of loss or abuse, are not recognized and appropriately addressed, those children are put at a greater risk of depression and disengagement from their environment. Their mental health will continue to deteriorate and they themselves might turn to other forms of consolation such as drugs in order to deal with their pain.
We at Kingdom Families believe in the importance of the psychosocial support of vulnerable children. We must meet their emotional and spiritual needs as well as other material needs that will enable them to grow and develop into responsible and confident adults.