It is difficult to pin down the exact number of orphaned children in China. The official published estimate is approximately 576,000 orphans, while the number estimated by others working with this population is closer to one million. Regardless of which is the correct estimate, they are both very big numbers. It is a little difficult for a person to really wrap their head around what these numbers mean in terms of actual human life.
For some of us, we start out with a vague idea in our heads about what the number means. We can understand that there are actual children living behind the numbers, and many of us choose to start the adoption process because of that understanding. We know there are children needing families. We know that we love children. The two seem to go hand in hand. At least for myself, though, it wasn’t until I travelled to my child’s country and was confronted with the very real children all clambering for love and attention that it became very personal. Anyone who has looked in the eyes of a child who is asking if you are his or her mommy comes away permanently changed and broken.
It is at this point that you realize doing nothing is not an option.
For some it means advocating for children who need families. For others, it means sponsoring children so that they have access to medical care and education. For some, it even means leaving everything and going to work on a permanent, long-term basis serving these most vulnerable human beings. When we become emotionally connected, we need to do something.
The reasons there are such a great number of children without families are many and complex. There is not one simple reason behind it, nor is there one simple solution. It will only change with systemic social and cultural changes. In the meantime, while money is not the solution, it can help ease the suffering of those who don’t have time to wait for these changes to take place.
There are some very good organizations doing some very good work in China. They are stable, have been in existence for quite some time, and are transparent in how money is spent and resources are used. While the following is not a definitive list, by any means, it is a list close to my heart, as several of these organizations have played a role in our family by helping some of our children when they needed it most.
Ideally, a parent never feels the need to have to relinquish a child due to finances, but because so many countries lack a social welfare system, this is exactly what many are forced to do. There are several good organizations who are trying to stop the orphan problem before it starts, by providing financial help and medical assistance to families whose children need it.
- Love Without Boundaries has a Unity Initiative Fund, which provides surgeries for children whose families cannot afford it.
- The Morning Star Foundation’s Love Project helps families who have children suffering from heart disease with funds for surgery as well as emotional support.
- The Community Outreach Project of International China Concern seeks to support families who have a child with disabilities by providing therapy, counseling, and financial aid as well as helping to educate the surrounding communities.
But what about the children who do come into care? The vast majority of children in social welfare institutions have special needs. Many of them require surgery, therapy or, in the worst instances, hospice care. There are organizations who are trying to do their best for these children.
- Once again, Love Without Boundaries has multiple programs aimed at providing needed medical care to children. I may be a bit biased when it comes to this organization, as they are responsible for my daughter receiving a much-needed surgery. Everything was documented and we were blessed with extensive records and photographs which we would not have otherwise had.
- The Baobei Foundation is another organization which works to provide much-needed and often life-saving surgeries for children. Once again, I may be biased. One of the daughters we are waiting to bring home is being cared for by the Baobei Foundation. Without the Foundation we would be missing a daughter, and she would be missing a family.
- New Day Foster Home, like the other organizations mentioned, also takes seriously ill children and provides them with medical care and love in their foster homes. It is often nothing short of miraculous to see the transformation of these children in their photographs.
- Not all children are well enough to have surgery make a difference. That is where China Little Flower steps in. While they, too, provide medical and foster care, they also provide hospice care for children who are dying.
- To be an orphan is difficult, to be an orphan without vision can be devastating. Bethel China runs three foster homes which provide education, life skills, and care for children who are blind or vision-impaired.
- Half the Sky seeks to change children’s lives by intervening at the institutional level. By working with welfare institutions, they seek to transform institutional care into a more nurturing and emotionally healthful environment for the children living there. Once again, this program has affected our family in a close and personal way, as another of our daughters whom we are waiting to bring home is currently living in a welfare institute where Half the Sky is working.
I almost hate to begin a list such as this because, by necessity, I have to leave off so many other worthwhile institutions, some of which I know personally. This list is very incomplete and in no way reflects on the importance of the work each of them is doing.
Not everyone can adopt, and not everyone who adopts can adopt all the children they wish to help. Not all children are available for adoption.
Please, find it in your heart to research and take a look at these (and other) organizations. The amount you have to give may be small (or large—I don’t want to limit you), but it all adds up. You could make a difference in one child’s life. You could help fund a surgery, pay for care in the hospital, sponsor a child, provide nourishment for an infant, help a family stay intact. It is all important and it takes all of us working together. There are still children in need and they need our help.