We started this series, Glimpses, with the United States because this is where we have access to the most information regarding youth in state care. As we move to show the different situations worldwide, we are grouping countries together to explain the situation as fully as possible. We want to clarify that this information comes from research rather than experience, which means it is incomplete. Try as we might, we can’t account for the children who are off-record or for the ones whose stories are misrepresented. If you have first-hand information you would like to add, please comment below!
For the most part, we've had difficulty finding concrete information on children aging out of state care in Asia. Information on social needs? Yes. Reasons for abandonment? Sure. Cultural perceptions on disabilities? Yeah. But little on the reality of the situation for orphans who make it to the "aging out" stage (with the exception of China, from the perspective of an adoptive mom and orphan advocate). For this post we've decided to focus on what we can see and how it affects the dilemma we are addressing.
Common issues affecting orphan care in this area of the world: gender inequality, strict government laws, lack of adequate healthcare, superstitions.
“The needs in India are overwhelming. India has approximately three times the population of the United States living in one third of the space. Introduce intense poverty, famine, drought, natural disasters, and AIDS, and you have a recipe for tragedy and most significantly, vulnerable children. India has the largest number of estimated orphans and vulnerable children in the world — 31 million. In addition, 60,000 children a year are born with HIV in India and that number continues to significantly increase.”
“A strong "son preference" exists in the region, as it does throughout the country, and high rates of female infanticide and female feticide plague the area. In 2001, for every 1,000 males living in Rajasthan there were only 922 women (Marthur et. al., 2004). Having sons is economically advantageous to families due to cultural institutions; these institutions serve to drastically devalue the roles women play in the traditional society. Women continue to struggle to achieve equal status to men, making gender equity an issue of particular importance for Rajasthan.”
-Foundation for Sustainable Developement International
“The United Nations estimates that [over the past century] 50 million girls and women are missing from India’s population, due to gendercide. …continuous, systematic forms of discrimination against girls and women are widespread throughout India today. In fact, because they are so commonly practiced, a mass chasm in the sex ratio of the country has resulted. According to India’s 2011 Census, there are 37 million more men than women ... Finally, this massive gender gap has resulted in human trafficking. Girls and women are still regularly sold into brothels India. Girls and women are also frequently kidnapped to become wives for men who have no women in their villages. Hence, further discriminations result against women.”
-Invisible Girl Project
According to SOS Children’s Villages, the number of orphans in Indonesia is around 5.3 million, around 7% of all children in Indonesia between 5-14 are engaged in child labor, child marriages are high, on average 1 in 5 children being put into these marriages and divorce rates within these statistics are high - often leading to girls entering prostitution to support themselves.
“At least 21 million people in Indonesia live on less than $1 per day. 87 million children and adults struggle to get enough food and 1 in 3 children under the age of 5 suffer from stunting as a result of inadequate nutrition. 1 in 5 children who start primary school do not complete the 5th grade and access to education in more remote areas of the country is difficult or unavailable… As a result of these statistics and many others, 4% of Indonesia’s children will not live to see their 5th birthday.”
“There are around 8,000 orphanages throughout Indonesia, 10 of them run by the central government, 200 by regional governments and the rest by private institutions, according to data from the Social Affairs Ministry. [They age out at 18]”
It is estimated that there are 20.6 million orphans in China.
In China, children age out as early as 14 - in this context it means they are no longer adoptable, but may be allowed to stay in the orphanages for a while longer. Often in China, as around the rest of the world, children are abandoned due to “special needs”. This is viewed differently in this culture, as access to health care and traditions/superstitions play a role in how severe these needs are perceived. Something like a cleft pallet, which is viewed as a relatively simple surgery in the States, often leads to a child being abandoned in China. An estimate made by Love Without Boundaries is that 90-98% of the children abandoned in China are abandoned due to medical needs, as opposed to gender, which was normal around 10 years ago. The “One Child” policy, while changing/having been changed, still has massive implications in the life of children in China, especially girls.
“In China, orphaned children become ineligible for adoption at fourteen. This is a hard and fast rule. Depending on the availability and resources of the orphanage they can be allowed to stay until the age of 16-18 years old. Many orphanages try to assist their teens in finding a job, however high unemployment rates and limited schooling make it very difficult. As I have previously blogged about, there is a very negative stigma towards orphans and it is much worse if you have a disability, limitation or physical abnormality.
Chinese social structure is more regimented than here in the United States. Having family and their support is a key part of a person's success in China. Without this support, options are limited. Some will become domestic servants or if they do not have any limitations, they can be accepted into the army. Unfortunately homelessness, human trafficking and prostitution are the realities for many of these children.”
“The Chinese government encourages companies to hire handicapped workers (for appropriate jobs) with some tax incentives. Unfortunately there are a lot of handicapped people in Chinese society and in many parts of China, the unemployment rates are very high. This adds to the uphill battle that orphanages face, in trying to get companies to overcome their prejudices, towards people with special needs.
The reality is that most orphans who age out of the system will be homeless, trafficked for domestic servitude, prostitution, turn to crime, or sadly, some will commit suicide. For many the best hope is that they will live in poverty, hoping to work in a factory making jeans, running shoes or toys.”
A Matter of Life
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.
The reason Empty Frames Initiative appeals to the church: the Church has an entirely different perception on the value of life than the rest of the world.
We believe that each individual is made with a purpose, they are worthy of love and compassion. We are all in need of a Savior.
We have found hope in Christ, and in this hope we have found a motivation to bring His kingdom here, on earth as it is in Heaven.
These children are precious in the sight of God. They are not merely statistics or beings on and off this earth in a moment - they are souls. So are the parents, the orphanage workers, the communities these kids come from. We have to approach the orphan’s needs as the needs of all people, the need for Christ. We also have to acknowledge that unless a culture sees value in life they will not see the need to care for their children. It's not just one part of the world that faces this issue, every culture and system could do better to care for the voiceless in their communities. As Christians, we need to be asking the Lord, "where do I come in?". We know we are called to care for those that society has put to the side, the "least of these", and in doing that we serve Christ (Matthew 25). Let us be praying and seeking His heart on these matters.
What Can I Do?
While we haven’t touched on the topic of adoption yet in ways you can help, this is a serious and real commitment many families are making and maybe you feel called to make as well. Below we have highlighted opportunities to help with a child’s adoption.
Through Reece’s Rainbow you can support kids waiting to be adopted around the world, specifically those with special needs. Within their site they offer a specific place for donating to grants that provide aid to families adopting youth who are at risk of aging out.
"The mission of Reece’s Rainbow is to advocate and find families for orphans with Down syndrome and other special needs by raising funds for adoption grants and promoting awareness through an online community, media communications, and other events."
Through Show Hope you can provide adoption grants to families who have a heart to adopt, but need help financially. Show Hope also offers the opportunity to support their care centers in China and Haiti, where children with special needs are provided with safety, comprehensive medical care, and a loving family atmosphere.
“Show Hope™ is a movement to care for orphans, restoring the hope of a family to orphans in distress around the world.
Founded by Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife Mary Beth, this nonprofit organization is helping to make a difference for the millions of orphans and waiting children around the world. Primarily they do this through Adoption Aid financial grants that help give orphans families and Special Care Centers in China that help orphans with special needs. Through programs like their Advocates, Student Initiatives, and Sponsorship, they are truly mobilizing a movement of individuals and communities who show hope to children in need.”
Invisible Girl Project
Invisible Girl Project focuses on the gender inequality that leads to abandonement and mistreatment of girls in both China and India.
“Invisible Girl Project (IGP) is a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization based out of the U.S. that seeks to END the atrocity of gendercide in India. IGP raises global awareness concerning the loss of female lives in India, pursues justice for the lives lost, and assists Indian organizations in the rescue of and care for Indian girls.”