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A Snapshot of Orphan Care in India

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This week, we have set a goal to find 20 additional sponsors for our foster care program in India. This program has been a dream of LWB’s since 2016 because we believe so fully that every child deserves a family.

India has one of the largest populations of children in orphanage care, so expansion of our successful foster care program here from other countries was a definite goal. It took three full years for us to find the best partners on the ground who shared our passion and values for family-based care, and since 2019 we’ve been honored to work with YCDA in Odisha to move vulnerable children into loving foster homes. We are overjoyed by the transformations we have seen in the kids as they have settled in and thrived with their foster families.

Today we would like to provide a general overview of the orphanage system in India. The institutional system runs differently in every country where we work, so we want to give you a brief snapshot of the current Indian system.

Orphanages in India are known as CCIs (Child Care Institutions), and they are most often the first placement for children who find themselves without parental care. In a 2017 government study, the country of India had nearly 10,000 orphanages with estimates of 400,000 children living in institutional care. Children in orphanages in India are frequently known as “inmates.”

Many states in India have separate orphanages for children under 6 and then for those who are age 7 and above. The “baby orphanages” are known as SAAs (Specialized Adoption Agencies), as those are the children most likely to find a family through adoption (although very few are ever adopted compared to the number of children in care.) Having different orphanages for different ages means that children sometimes moved to a new institution as they age, disrupting bonding and making permanency more challenging.

In 2015, the national government of India passed regulations stating that family-based care is preferable to orphanage care. However, since it is up to each individual state to administer, broad implementation of foster care has been slow. The massive number of children being followed by Indian police and caseworkers is often overwhelming. One child protection officer we spoke with, for example, was following over 250 cases every two-week period. In his particular location, files are not computerized, so stacks and stacks of manila folders were piled as high as we could see. Although the young man was extremely committed to his job, he told us that even working six days a week, from early morning until long after dark, he could not keep up. We believe this is one reason why it is often far easier to simply place a child into an existing orphanage versus implementing foster care, which is very time-intensive to do well.

One thing worth noting is that India’s child welfare laws are quite different from the other countries where we work. In India, children who are under the age of six cannot be placed in foster care homes, and children six and older can be placed only after a specified amount of time has passed since they were declared legally free for adoption. In most cases, orphaned and abandoned babies in India are not allowed to be placed into family-based care. It is for this reason that our current foster care program in Odisha only helps older children. We of course hope these regulations will be revisited in the future as infancy is such a critical time for attachment and development, but for now, we give continual thanks that the children we ARE allowed to place into homes are thriving.

Another important thing to know about foster care in India is that foster families who fall in love with their child and wish to make the relationship permanent are required to foster for five full years before being allowed to apply for adoption. This means that the children we take into LWB foster care will be with us for a long time.

This is why it is vitally important for us to find additional sponsors who want to be part of this important project.

One of the children benefiting from our foster care program in Odisha is Kian, who was living in an orphanage when we began our pilot foster care program. Local officials had identified him as being a good candidate for placement, and Kian has now been in family-based care for over two years.  What a joy it is to see him being loved and supported as a valued part of a family!

When schools closed due to COVID, Kian’s foster father sat with him for hours each day helping him stay on track with his studies, and his foster mom built him a swing out of cloth to have a fun activity to do indoors. These acts of love and kindness from a parent to a child are what we believe every child deserves.

You can be a part of this vitally important child welfare change in India by sponsoring a child into family-based care. Our foster care sponsorships are $40 per month, and you will receive a monthly update with photos and stories about the child you support. We also welcome any one-time gifts to this life-changing program and will send general updates on the difference your kindness makes. 

Can you help us reach our goal of 20 new sponsorships? As always, we are just so grateful for your support.

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