Confession #98: America vs. Haiti: Foster Care, Aging Out Youth & The Church
Have you seen the humorous commercials advocating adoption from foster care? After a less than perfect couple botches up a barbecue picnic, you hear, “You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent.” Commercials like these are a recent development within the last 10 years. I suppose the “powers at be” have decided it is less expensive to advocate for children to provide them a family than dealing with the societal repercussions of adults who were raised without a family. It’s true…the future looks pretty bleak for those in America who age out of the American foster care system. According to a CNN article written by Rita Soronen in April of this year, conservative studies find that 20% of children released from foster care at 18 become homeless; at 24, only half will be employed; and less than 3% will have earned a college degree. This is a perfect recipe to flood our American government systems from welfare to prison. The latest push in this campaign is to ask families to consider adopting children ages 11-18.
Before I worked in Haiti advocating for orphans I worked in America advocating for orphans. In foster care as well as in church funded children’s homes, the concern for these kids doesn’t end when they turn 18, but the resources to help them does. Children’s homes struggle to make plans for these usually very disturbed youth after they are no longer allowed to be housed in facilities with younger children. The foster care system often casts these young people aside after they turn 18 without a real plan or a real family resulting in the former statistics. Transition homes are a viable option, however, finding funding and resources for such programs is a challenge, so they aren’t usually implemented.
So, you may ask, why do you work in Haiti, if the orphan crisis in America is so bleak? As bleak as it is in America, it is nearly hopeless in a place like Haiti. Without minimizing the challenges our aging out youth in America face, I want to make some comparisons:
American youth can easily earn a high school diploma by 18. They most likely will have access to financial aid for college. In Haiti, however, the average graduation age is 24 due to an educational system working against them. There is no system in Haiti to provide financial aid for those who desire higher education.
In America, if you want a job, and are willing to work hard, a job can usually be found. In Haiti, with an unemployment rate of nearly 50%, a corrupt system only provides jobs to those with connections. And orphans don’t have connections because they don’t have family.
So what happens to these young people aging out of Haiti’s debased system? Haiti doesn’t have a system like the US that can gather statistics, however, ask anyone who works or lives in Haiti and they will tell you. These aging out youth are homeless, stealing, prostituting, or dead before long. The result is often the same for those in America. However the youth in America are given a chance with an educational and employment system working for them, not against them.
When the church does step in to care for the fatherless, the odds can be beaten. Take Abbie (not her real name) for example. A 16 year old girl, no recollection of a father who abandoned her and daughter to an unstable mother at best. A perfect candidate for our foster care system. Instead, the church has taken her (and at times, her mother) in and given her an opportunity for a life of stability. Abbie gets straight A’s at the Christian school where she attends, plays basketball, volleyball, and soccer. She is learning about a Heavenly Father who loves her. Her future is bright thanks to a system not working against her as well as a body of believers willing to get their hands dirty to love her.
When Abbie turns 18, she will most likely make it, thanks to a loving church family and a less than perfect government system helping her along the way as well. Abbie will have an opportunity for education, prosperity, and spiritual growth by nature of the place where she was born. She was born in the land of the free, the land of plenty. The pain and the loss in her life is something she will always have to deal with, however she has opportunity simply by being born in the US that the youth in Haiti never will.
I pray daily for the youth of Emmaus House. I pray they will know the love of the family of God. I pray they will beat a system with odds stacked against them at every turn. God’s people are stepping in to help the youth of Emmaus House. With your help and our help, these aging out kids have a chance to beat the system of corruption in Haiti.
Feel called to help the youth of Emmaus House? You can!
- Be an advocate: Talk to your friends and family about Emmaus House and the need to support children who age out of the orphanage system in Haiti. Share our story on Facebook and other social media sites. Help us get the word out.
- Donate to rent: Rent on Emmaus House is due in July. Without the needed funds to rent the house, we run the risk of no longer having a home for our 17 teenagers and house family. Go HERE to pledge a donation or go HERE to donate.
- Sponsor: THESE TEENS do not have their sponsorship needs met. Check them out and consider sponsoring today.
~ Tanya (Emmaus House Board Member)