Worldwide efforts to make orphanages a thing of the past

International (MNN) — Not many organizations want to put themselves out of a job, but that’s exactly what Bethany Christian Services is trying to do.

According to Bethany’s Kristi Gleason, a perfect world would be one in which organizations like Bethany were completely unnecessary. The first step towards such a world is moving orphans out of orphanages and into homes.

“We focus not just on orphans but really on families,” Gleason said. “Our day-to-day work really focuses on figuring out how to get children out of orphanages and into families, either back into their biological families or, if that’s not a possibility, into a foster family.”

Photo Courtesy Bethany Christian Services

Once a child is part of a family, Bethany’s work isn’t done just yet. Next, the organization helps with family preservation, strengthening familial bonds so children aren’t put in orphanages to begin with.

Their goal of making orphanages a thing of the past is one they share with several national governments. Russia and Romania, for example, are trying to get every child out of every orphanage and into families. “Rwanda has, in the last several years, also said ‘We are going to close down the orphanages in our country, and we are going to be one of the first African countries to not have orphanages,’” Gleason said.

“What we’re feeling is a momentum shift. It has been a little slow and steady, but now, we have lots of interest from governments, churches, and US organizations interested in helping us move away from orphanage care and into what we call family-based care.”

And the need for that care is as great as ever. Conflict, disasters, and other devastating events have left many children alone and lost. The best remedy for such a widespread need? The global Church.

“This is an absolutely amazing way for the local church to respond to the situations going on in their own countries,” Gleason said. If Bethany and other organizations can assist and train them, there are plenty of families who can help. In other words, the Church is massive, and if they’re willing, its members can make a huge difference in the lives of orphans all over the globe.

There’s no denying the scale of this undertaking. Even after splitting the project into countries and regions, it’s a massive job, and countries that have many strict regulations for orphanages, such as India, Nepal, and China, present plenty of their own problems.

(Photo courtesy of Bethany Christian Services)

Still, partnership can make all the difference. “We partner with governments and we partner with other organizations working on a similar path because we know not one organization or church can address this problem holistically,” Gleason said. It requires mass cooperation of all of the talents and abilities of the pieces of the body of Christ, and it requires support and prayer.

“A really great way that people can start obviously is to pray. Pray for governments and organizations to think about orphan care differently.”