Footsteps 101 - Caring for orphans

Includes case studies, children’s activities and a moving interview about growing up in a children’s home.


Helping social orphans 

We were happy to hear you are producing a Footsteps edition on orphan care. There are many ‘social orphans’ in the Philippines who are neglected or abandoned by their parents. Some are victims of extreme poverty, natural disasters or armed conflicts. Sometimes, children we have worked with have ended up on the streets despite our best efforts. This is disheartening and frustrating. Our community workers would cry during office prayers for children like these. 

With the high risk of disasters in the Philippines, more children are in danger of becoming social orphans. We hope Tearfund can provide concrete tools on how to sustainably address this issue. 

Lingap (Tear Netherlands Partner) 

Tackling stigma against children 

Footsteps 86 on stigma had a great impact in my village. We had children who were deaf, dumb, lame and HIV-positive, as well as two young girls who were almost raped. These children were being mocked, and could not go to school and play with their friends. Even their parents were locking them in the house, fearing shame. 

I visited these children with the help of village headmen committees. We talked to their parents and guardians about how Jesus loved the children, the lame, the blind and everyone. After two months of convincing them, they allowed their children to start mixing with their friends. We also had a talk to their friends and told them to imagine it was them and how they would feel. We then started a village community school and sports club. After hearing about love, people changed their attitude and behaviour towards orphans and disabled and vulnerable children. 

Samson, Zambia 

Knotty problem 

Question: ‘If an orphanage is run like a family, can it still cause difficulties for children?’ 

Answer: Some orphanages try to provide ‘family-like’ care. They may only care for small numbers of children. Or they may put children into ‘family groups’, where they are looked after by a caregiver in smaller homes within a compound. While this is much better than large institutions, it still does not replace a family in a true sense. 

Even small family-like orphanages have staff changes and more fixed rules and routines than a family. Orphanages that arrange themselves as small homes in a compound still create their own community. They do not place a child in a real community and the broader society. This will affect the children when they leave. Orphanages care for a large number of children over the years. They cannot be parents to all of those children through every stage of their life. 

The negative effects of growing up in an institution can be reduced through family-like environments, but not necessarily removed. Therefore, while family-like residential care is better than large institutional care, it is still not the best option if appropriate family or community care can be found. 

Answer adapted from ACCI Kinnected’s Frequently asked questions document

Do you have a knotty problem you would like the Footsteps community to help with? Contact us using the addresses below. 

Please write to: The Editor, Footsteps, 100 Church Road, Teddington, TW11 8QE, UK