People often ask me what the hardest part about this work is. Well, it changes. Sometimes the hard part is having to tell people bad news, sometimes it’s getting people to donate, sometimes it’s hearing that a child is having a tough time, sometimes it’s finding out that the partner you loved is not being transparent. It’s always something. So, knowing that this will likely change, I’d like to share with you what some of our biggest challenges are today… because you have the right to know the good, the bad and the ugly.
As some background, we’ve been working to increase the standard of care within orphanages and leverage our model through governments and other organizations. It has been working for the children on the ground and our trusted local partners keep the quality high. Our goal is always to keep government relationships positive so the leaders know what we do and appreciate our work. All of that provides the framework we need to be successful. In the end, you want governments to be your partners, and you want to praise them because they want to make a difference. But striking a balance between praising a government for caring and pointing out the glaring inefficiencies and challenges has been tough. I’ve stepped in a pile of mud a couple of times recently trying to both appreciate and call out a government.
To compound matters, we also have well-meaning donors wanting to “help” with things that don’t effectively move the needle for our kids. Scheduling activities that are fun for us like providing tangible goods or going to the children to “teach” them for a week are good PR and make for good photo ops, but they don’t make a difference for the 7,000 kids we help. That’s why we continue to focus on what we know and always move toward what really makes a difference and has a lasting, positive impact for the children. People want to make an impact, that’s the great part. Finding ways that engage them personally and give them the fulfillment they want, is tough. I think about it and search for an answer all the time.
With all of that being said, our absolute biggest challenge right now is the growing message to deinstitutionalize or shut down all orphanages by cutting funding. In short, that could be incredibly damaging. Where will these children go? To be fair, there are a ton of orphanages doing the wrong thing and should be shut down. The problem is, without proper systems in place and building capacity on the ground level, this could go terribly wrong.
The biggest question that isn’t being asked about this growing movement to get kids out of institutions is (again): Where are the children supposed to go? And are these places ready for them? What about the older kids? We have brilliant people screaming “deinstitutionalize!” to the donors. And yet, with this huge gap between policy and practice, no one effectively answers that question. Sure, you can advocate for shutting down institutions, but then answer the question of how, who, where? I hear, “we’ll just put them in the foster care system.” But when you consider that the United States government puts $9 billion/year into our foster care system (not including donations from non-profit organizations), and our system is still as dysfunctional as it is, how can we expect developing countries to do a better job? And are they even prepared?
As they struggle, we continue to push forward with our plans to help. We’re coming alongside the good orphanages and helping them to understand what is in the best interest of the children. We’re working with orphanages and governments to make sure every child has an individual child plan. And we’re working with them to find the best family care environment whether it’s reunifying with family, next of kin, adoption or staying in a smaller home environment until they are able to complete their higher education and get that first job. We do all of this to make these people the champions instead of the enemy.
So that’s it. Today’s biggest challenges laid bare. Our answer to those challenges? An unwavering commitment to a simple truth: All kids need and deserve a loving family and personalized care. And that’s the Miracle Foundation’s ultimate goal. Your support gives us the ability to take into account every child’s individual circumstances. With that as our unified focus, we can — together — turn our challenges into our shared successes.
If you have any thoughts, suggestions, concerns or questions, we’re just an email or phone call away.