Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Interesting Article on the Global Orphan Crisis

This article was taken from the Christian Alliance for Orphans website...

Global Orphans Facts

The Numbers
•Total estimated number of orphans worldwide: 163 million
•Estimated number that have lost a mother: 55.3 million •Estimated number that have lost a father: 126 million
•Estimated number of “double orphans”: 18.3 million •See breakdown by country here.
◦(U.S. Government “3rd Annual Report to Congress on Public Law 109-95” and affirmed by UNICEF)
•Number of caring adults it takes to make a life-long difference for an orphan: 1
Analysis of Global Orphan Numbers
One of the slipperiest elements of orphan advocacy is the statistics often quoted to describe the number of orphans worldwide.

These often-varying estimates are sometimes misstated and frequently misapplied. For example, global estimates (currently 163 million orphans worldwide) are often quoted in ways that imply that all of these children have no living parents. It’s hard not to make that mistake, since most people typically think of an “orphan” as a child that has lost both parents. But since global orphan estimates include children who’ve lost either one or both parents, roughly 90 percent of children classified as “orphans” have one living parent. This does not mean that these children are not highly vulnerable, but it does mean that the best response to their needs is often not adoption or some form of orphan home, but helping the family remain intact or reunite.

Having good data on the number of orphans worldwide is valuable. It gives us at least a small glimpse of the sheer vastness of the need. And for decision-makers in government or nonprofits, having quality information on how many orphans there are and where they live can play an important role in shaping policy and priorities.

But, we need be clear-eyed about three big limitations of global orphan statistics.

1.Imprecise. Even in the U.S.—where transportation is easy and communication is lightning-quick—the Census Bureau must harness hundreds of millions of dollars and a vast army of workers to collect its data. Contrast that exercise with trying to pinpoint the number of parentless children in the the Gobi Desert or Andes’ Mountains. It is, to say the least, an imprecise science. This doesn’t mean the numbers are useless, just that we need to recognize they are only an estimate.

2.Potentially Deceptive. Statistics can often be slippery and must be handled with care. For example, the classification of children who’ve lost either one or both parents as orphans can be particularly confusing. Most people think of an orphan as a child who has lost both parents. So it’s important that advocates make clear what we mean when we’re talking about “163 million orphans in the world.” A failure on this count may cause some people to think we’re not being totally honest.

3.Paralyzing. Think about how you feel when someone drops on you a “big” statistic regarding need. Do you typically feel inspired to act…or does it make you feel drained and overwhelmed? Whopping numbers that we can’t get our minds around rarely rouse people to action. In fact, some research suggests that human response to need actually decreases as our sense of the size of a problem expands. That doesn’t mean orphan advocates should shun statistics. But it does mean we should recognize that spewing out big numbers won’t often generate response. We should know the numbers, but most of the time we’ll want to help others recognize the need through the eyes of a single child or the struggles of a single family.

Ultimately, there’s a single statistic that matters more than any other: It only takes a single caring individual to make a lifelong difference in the life of any orphan. That’s one statistic that is precise, unambiguous, and empowering. Most importantly, it’s a fact people will act on.

Finally, Christians also need to understand that the biblical concept of “orphans” or “the fatherless” found throughout Scripture is a category that includes much more than just the boy or girl who has lost both parents. Rather, it describes the child that faces the world without provider or protector. Some children who fit this description have one living parent. In some cases, such children may even have two living parents who’ve abandoned or abused them, or simply have no capacity to care for them. No statistical analysis will ever perfectly capture the global number of children who fit in this category, but that need be of little concern. Ultimately, God’s call is to defend the defenseless child—whatever the particulars of her situation may be.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for clarifying the difference between the TYPES of "orphan" needs and therefore our responses to them. It's not the norm in adoption-affiliated blogs. Much appreciated.