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Building support for alternatives to orphanages

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Growing ethical and social concerns have arisen around residential care programs, as practitioners have increasingly brought to light that many children who end up in orphanages aren’t actually orphans. Most have living family members, but have been sent to orphanages because of poverty, caregiver illness, a disability or short-term situational challenges.

But many in the general public of the U.S. are unaware of this.

A group of concerned stakeholders gathered together as the Faith to Action Initiative to shift people’s perceptions of orphan care around the world. These leaders seek to educate concerned supporters on best practices for helping vulnerable children, which include programs that strengthen families, like kinship care or foster care.

Well-intentioned givers continue to support orphanages financially and as volunteers, even though family-based care is both more cost effective and developmentally healthier for children.[1] To shift awareness, the coalition knew they had to focus on the biggest supporters. They found that one-fifth of U.S. Christians give to a residential orphanage (an estimated $2.5 Billion per year).

To change the narrative that would then begin to shift opinions, Pinkston identified sources that are highly influential among this audience (pastors and Christian leaders, faith-based nonprofits, and Christian media) and developed a plan to raise awareness among these influencers first.

Our team monitored and measured the impact of these efforts, starting with media analysis of Christian outlets. Over the course of one year, media stories about caring for orphans went from 39% positive about, or in support of, orphanages, to 0% positive about residential care and 65% critical of orphanages.[2] The next step is to track perceptions among these influencer audiences (have church leaders’ support of orphanages shifted?) and then continue nurturing the conversation through multiple channels and content sources until broader public opinion shifts.

FOOTNOTES
[1] investing in programs that provide these needs for children living in family care is
more cost-effective and reduces the likelihood of orphanage placement. There is
also anecdotal evidence that where orphanages do not exist, families and community
members are more likely to initiate or seek other ways to care for orphans and
vulnerable children within families
[2] One such example: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2022/march/covid-19-orphans-aids-family-care.html

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