Orphanages and Reform

I am really interested in what people think about this recent article about Karen Gordon, Adopting a Crusade (by Kerry A. Dolan, Forbes Magazine). I remember first reading about her in one of my mom’s women’s magazines a few years ago. I admit that this whole issue of orphans and orphanages brings up a lot of conflicting opinions and feelings for me.

For one thing, it once again brings up the whole tricky topic of caregiver hierarchies. What kind of caregiving hierarchy is best? The first thing people say is that "orphanages are institutions and all
children deserve/should/need to be with ‘families’ and parents."

Says Gordon,

"I
would love for all children to live in a happy, nurturing home," she
says. "In the meantime someone needs to be dealing with the existing
problem." The unkind reality, she notes, is that most kids in
orphanages will spend an entire childhood there.

In the article, the children in the Hungarian orphanage are cared for in smaller groups of  6-8  with a primary caretaker. So those who say even small groups aren’t as good as a "family home" must be instantly discounting all the parents, adoptive or otherwise, who have 6 or more kids too (and that means a few of my friends). Because if we use that argument we’re saying that one parent/caregiver can’t possibly take care of that many kids at one time.

On the other hand, in Minnesota a few years ago I was vehemently opposed to a proposal for the creation of an orphanage by a well known do-gooder, Mary Jo Copeland. At the time, my reasons for this opposition were the same as the arguments most people expressed; it’s an institution, it’s better for kids to be in single families, staff turnover negates the idea of a "two parent" family benefit, and I was sure that children of color were going to be overrepresented.

There are good orphanages, it seems, like the one featured in the article about Gordon. There are bad ones, we are all aware of from the media (Romania, Russia, China).

But there are good adoptive/foster families and there are bad adoptive/foster families too.

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