Globally, more than 150 million children are living without one or both parents. Some orphans may live with family members, or in institutions (orphanages) and sadly, others often live on the streets, fending for themselves. Although one might think orphanages serve as the ideal solutions for the care of orphans, research regarding institutional care for orphans confirms that children are more likely to thrive if they live with family members versus an orphanage. Sadly, when no family members are able or willing to step forward to care for an orphan, institutional care becomes the most viable option. For some children, institutional care can be short term as they may be adopted into a new family; many more children remain in these homes until they become adults. SusCo’s founder, Alyson Parham Small spent time in Ghana working on a mission project and visited different orphanages. She found orphanages were often over-crowded and although the operators were well-intentioned in their desire to care for these children, they lacked the financial capacity to properly and consistently feed, clothe, shelter and educate the number of children in their care. In addition, there appeared to very little investment in the social, emotional, and cognitive development of the children. Given the unacceptable number of orphans around the world, there are some critical challenges regarding the care of orphans and other vulnerable children residing in institutions that often goes unnoticed. For example, in Ghana and many other countries:
- Orphanages not only include children with no parents but children whose parents are simply too poor to take care of them and view these institutions as a logical option for ensuring their children are fed and educated.
- Orphanages established by organizations outside the country have not been officially registered as an orphanage but rather as an non-governmental organization; violating the Government’s laws regarding the operation of an orphanage.
- International private resources often supports orphanages that do not have a clear understanding of what will happen to the children after they become adults.
- In some of the most well-meaning orphanages, older orphans lack personal road maps to move themselves beyond the walls of the institutions once they become adults.