Module Two: The Priority of Family

OVC Essentials Fall 2021 Module Two: The Priority of Family

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    • #76536
      Leah St. Pierre
      CAFO Staff

      Reflect on any new learnings this week that challenged a previously held belief or philosophy – citing mostly if possible from the Children, Orphanages, Families resource, and the Continuum of Care webinar. Do you hold any new perspectives on global orphan care? Express any feelings, concerns, or experiences around the complexities of transitioning to family care and how they have played out in your own life and ministry.

    • #76537
      Sarah Alfieri
      Participant

      I loved working through the readings this week- particularly the Children, Orphanages, and Families resource. Something that challenged me this week was the topic of foster care versus adoption. At my previous job I was working as a legal witness for forensic interviews- where the majority of kids were in foster care after being removed from their homes. I witnessed countless children describing the horrors of the foster care system (though I do know there are many wonderful people who are a gift to kids in foster care and truly do change their lives). From that experience, I inwardly started believing that adoption was definitely a better option than foster care. Although each child’s situation is different, I learned from the resources this week that if the child can be safely (and appropriately) reunified with the family, then foster care should be the ideal path as it can lead to reunification versus adoption. It can be hard to slow down long enough to truly assess a child’s situation and what the future could hold for that child- whether reunification or finding them a new forever home. I also know from my time overseas in various countries, that “foster care” plays out differently in other cultures. In China and the regions I was living at in Kenya, “foster care” was more of an informal system and was often kinship care or close friends that looked after the children. As with all the topics we will discuss, it is not only important to assess a child’s circumstances, but to view all details in light of the cultural context as well.

      A complexity that is hard for me to fully understand in the orphan care world is that of group homes (smaller-scale). I understand the risks and negative effects that impersonal care has, and do believe strongly in finding other solutions where a child can be better loved and cared for in a family setting. However, I also know wonderful people who have started small scale group homes who do truly love each child. The friends I am thinking of helped each child get off the streets and children only remain in the small-group home after research shows there are no living parents or relatives that can or will care for them. I am still working through this issue, and realize that it truly is about seeking to help children and what will be best for them long-term! This class is already helping me learn what questions to ask and providing me with resources and research as I form educated opinions!

      • #76542
        Dorathy Lachman
        Participant

        Hi Sarah,

        I found your comment about considering adoption a better alternative than foster care very interesting.  You are exactly right – slowing down long enough to gain a perspective that is child-centric can be so very difficult in the midst of painful and difficult events.  When Ziggy and I visited the children on the locked unit, I wrestled with some very similar conclusions.  As I reflect back, I think your point about slowing down is so very pertinent to gaining a better perspective about what the children truly needed and also what they were receiving from the system.

      • #76551
        Meredith Smylie
        Participant

        Hi Sarah!

        Thank you for sharing this! I wanted to share my perspective in response to your concerns regarding group homes. I think there are so so many that are impersonal and may not provide the individualized care that each child really needs, but I have seen it done well before. In some cases, there are no options that really meet the profound needs of a child outside of a group home.  While I fully believe every child should be in a home, and that in all cases, we should each do everything we can to help them find that, I think that residential care can provide some necessary healing before such a situation can really succeed. I do not know the numbers on this, but I hope that the percentage of children placed in out of home care who need this level of intervention is very small, but I think that as long as humans are inventors of evil, there will be a need for places which can provide the intense therapeutic care these children need in order to heal on move forward in a permanent family setting, whether that is reunification or adoption!

    • #76541
      Dorathy Lachman
      Participant

      One perspective that I found very interesting about global orphan care was expressed during the podcast – it was a (very) brief discussion about the impact of short term missions on global orphan care.  The new perspective that I gained was the realization that more research and wider communication has been performed around this topic.  I have seen the effectiveness that marketing and western dollars can have on recruitment to short term missions as well as the relational impact (often damage) experienced by the host (both people and ministry).  What was new to me was that this has become of greater awareness.  As the speaker mentioned, a deep evaluation of motives, biases and goals is needed to properly determine if a short term trip is the effective solution to a particular situation.  I in no way want to assert that all short term missions are bad, but I do appreciate that evaluating these things has finally begun to compete with the impact that marketing has had on orphan care and short term missions.

      Another thought that I found interesting was the discussion of the cost of transitioning to family care.  The burden of running two systems side by side during the transition will have more than financial cost – personnel, relationships, and community impact to name a few.  I appreciate that this point was brought up.  It’s a beautiful goal to realize a better way to provide care that is more effective and child-centric.  It’s also a simultaneous brokenness to realize the gravity and cost.  I can’t help but appreciate the moments when the realization hits home, and the difficult choice is made to re-route.  And I can’t help but imagine all the children that will benefit from a series of hard choices.

      • #76543
        Sarah Alfieri
        Participant

        Hey Dorathy! I loved both of your points, but especially enjoyed reading your perspective on short-term missions. It is such a hard topic with countless nuances, and again, every situation is different. From someone who was a long term missionary for 10 years, but has also done shorter-term mission trips, this is something I am still learning about and evaluating. Like you mentioned, I believe it is critical that each person take the time to check their motives, biases, and beliefs before going on a trip.

        This reminds me of the idea of “helping, not hurting,” and how in each intervention we practice- whether mission teams, residential care, foster care, healthcare, etc- we need to do our homework to make sure that we are creating lasting and helpful change, not harmful interventions. Lastly, I loved that you talked about how you are glad to see this topic come up more about short-term missions, and I couldn’t agree more. While I do believe in short-term missions done the right and biblical way, I do think that many, many short-term teams hurt instead of help. So, I am glad this conversation is gaining more traction, and that people are learning what a healthy trip could look like for the Kingdom. Thanks for sharing!

      • #76546
        Christy Wiesner
        Participant

        Hello Dorathy! I appreciate your honesty about the fine line we walk in short term missions. You make a really good point about deeply evaluating the motives, biases, and goals to determine if a short term mission is really a good solution. Though people going on short term missions are almost always good intentioned, they often do not understand the impacts to the people, culture, and ministry once they leave. I agree that there is a place for short-term missions when they are Biblically-based and have been thoroughly examined to see if the trip will actually be helpful rather than harmful. This is another area, much like the ‘American-orphanage dream’, where we need to reevaluate the real goal and make changes to align with what is truly best for those we desire to serve.

    • #76545
      Christy Wiesner
      Participant

      There were so many things to learn from the material this week, but I think one thing that stood out to me most is the importance of our starting point. Before we ever begin working with those who are vulnerable, we need to start with the right question: ‘What is best for this individual child?’. Before the Continuum of Care seminar addressed any methods of care, they emphasized that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. This is so important to remember because people can easily become committed to one model or method, even to the point of making it part of their identity. When people become trapped in this mindset, it can become a form of pride that says, “What do I want? What do I think is best? What is my model?’ rather than asking “What is best for the individual I am trying to help?”. Even when the intentions are good, the wrong question leads to wrong solutions. With this in mind, I think it takes very humble people to work with the vulnerable; people willing to sacrifice their own preferences and cultural mindsets/expectations to truly seek what is best for someone else. This is why I think the church plays such an important role worldwide in working with the vulnerable. This type of humility and service is exemplified in Christ and sincere believers are cultivated in His image through the Holy Spirit.

      Another important topic discussed this week is the power of culture. When working to care for the vulnerable in different cultures, the organizations need to be aware of cultural mindsets, strengths, and weaknesses. In this way the organization can be flexible in each culture they work with. They can build on the countries strengths and find new tactics and educational ways to approach weaknesses. God is a God of all cultures, nations, peoples. God has called a people out of every people and His image is reflected in each culture. This means that God has already created a pathway within each culture to care for His vulnerable children. As believers, we can look for God’s pathways and come along side the work He is doing to further develop and expand that care.

    • #76550
      Meredith Smylie
      Participant

      From both the material, and our conversation on Wednesday, I think my biggest takeaway is that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach in orphan care. Every child is different, every case is different, and therefore what is “best” is different each time. I love that research is catching up to the Biblical idea that family and belonging is what we all need to thrive, and am excited about what will come in future years as orphan care globally evolves to embrace this ideal.

      I was also challenged by reading how harmful short term missions can be. I had not considered the long-term ramifications of what are ultimately well-intentioned projects. This is certainly something I will keep in mind in future endeavors!

      • #76666
        Riley Habegger
        Participant

        Meredith,

        I agree with you in highlighting the importance of taking into consideration each child’s different developmental upbringing. There is no one-size-fits-all tactic to raising children in non-vulnerable situations, so I think it is important that we consider this when it comes to caring for vulnerable children as well. As a Human Development and Family Science major, I am encouraged to consider the way various circumstances that children undergo impact their development physically, mentally, and behaviorally, and each child is different in this way.

    • #76665
      Riley Habegger
      Participant

      This module encouraged me to consider the impact each individual child’s circumstances has on how to move forward in establishing the best care for them. For example, in the Continuum of Care webinar, I was challenged to consider the way circumstances changes the way each child is cared for and how it is important to work with a child on a day to day basis. There is no one-size-fits-all way for caring for vulnerable children, and this is an essential consideration for people to consider. This module prompted me to consider all the necessary questions you have to consider in determining the best way to promote the best development for children in a new care tactic different than what they were used to before coming into a new form of care.

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