Aging Out in Africa
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!
Because EFI's understanding of Africa is limited to research the situations provided below might be considered extreme; however, the plight of the orphan in any circumstance is extreme, regardless of the development in the country where they reside and the factors in every country will affect those with no voice more heavily.
African countries pose a unique situation for orphan care:
-Widespread HIVs/AIDS that leave millions orphaned.
-Being considered responsible from a younger age, which leads to older orphan children taking on adult responsibilities for their younger siblings.
-Political turmoil that leaves them prey to armies who use them as expendables.
-Government oversight on the plight of the children in their country.
“Algeria is home to roughly 550,000 orphaned children who have lost either one or both of their parents. A large number of these children grow up without parental protection and care or in dysfunctional family structures. Social exclusion, poverty and a lack of family support drive thousands of children into criminal clutches. Orphaned children are particularly vulnerable to all forms of exploitation ... According to reports, child abuse remains a widespread problem in Algeria. Many cases go unreported and implemented laws against child abuse have led to very few prosecutions. Education in Algeria is generally free and compulsory for all children up to the age of 16...”
-SOS Children's Villages U.S.
“Social exclusion, poverty and a lack of family support leaves many children open to exploitation and abuse. Though education is generally free up to the age of 16, school drop-out rates are high, and many children go without a basic education. Of the country's half a million orphaned children, a large proportion end up living on the street, facing violence and starvation, drug abuse and often death.”
-SOS Children's Villages U.K.
According to the Bureau of Consular Affairs, to adopt from Algeria one must have Algerian citizenship and be of the Muslim faith.
Democratic Republic of Congo
“A peace accord in 2003 ended a vicious civil war that claimed the lives of more than 3 million people. However, armed conflict has continued in pockets of the country, especially in the east. Severe poverty, insecurity, lack of basic social services and sexual violence all continue to take a heavy toll on children.”
“The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been one of the most unstable African states since independence was sealed in the 1960s. The civil war that continues to unsettle this African nation has often been called the world's deadliest humanitarian crisis of the 21st century. Children are at the very heart of the human tragedy that has unfolded in the DRC. Many children have been orphaned, displaced and killed … Although the international community has been trying to intervene, recruitment of children for the country's armed conflict by all parties involved is systematic and widespread, and the DRC has one of the largest numbers of child soldiers in Africa…The DRC is also a source and destination country for children subjected to forced labour and commercial sex work.
DRC is constantly among the ten lowest ranked states by the United Nations Human Development Index.”
-SOS Children's Villages
With the upheaval of the country in military conflict, orphaned children are at a high risk -and some are made orphans immediately before being coerced into the armies - either for genocide or recruitment.
*Adoption from the DRC is currently being stalled by governments.
Subsaharan Africa has a large number of children who are orphaned by AIDs/HIV. The countries that are a part of that region have traditionally given care of the orphans to extended family members, but the situation is overwhelming. “In sub-Saharan Africa, even more catastrophically than elsewhere, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has deepened poverty and exacerbated myriad deprivations. The responsibility of caring for orphaned children is a major factor in pushing many extended families beyond their ability to cope. With the number of children that require protection and support soaring – and ever-larger numbers of adults falling sick with HIV/AIDS – many extended family networks have simply been overwhelmed."
"South Africa is characterized by one of the highest numbers of HIV-positive citizens in the world. Although the government has implemented a number of prevention programs, around 18 per cent of South Africans between 15 and 49 years of age live with HIV/AIDS, making the disease the biggest health issue in the country…Nearly 3,400,000 children in South Africa are orphans. Around two million of them have lost either one or both of their parents due to AIDS and 330,000 live with HIV, a sad number that shows the extent to which the disease has been affecting the country's youngest segment of the population."
SOS Children's Villages
"According to a study done in 2011 by the National Youth Development Agency, over 70% of young people in South Africa between the ages of 18 and 24 are not in formal education or employment. Young people who have grown up in children's homes of marginalized communities in particular, face challenges in moving positively towards adulthood. As state funding only makes provision for children up to the age of 18 (with only some exceptions), many children needing to leave care at this point face some of the toughest challenges. Many of these young people do not have family support and have limited education and are expected to turn into instant adults at the age of 18 years."
"Every year, hundreds of young adults "age out" of the foster care system in South Africa when they officially become adults at or around their 18th birthday. It is a big transition that often comes with very little support."
More Than Conquerors
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth,
nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the
love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Once again, as we look at the distress and hurt being experienced by the orphan around the world we are left to wonder, "what can I do?". The One who overcomes in this story is Christ. As we read and learn about the heartache of the world, we need to be mindful of that. As we are called by Him to act on this knowledge we realize that it is all for His glory and for eternity. Orphans need families. Orphans need Christ. He is the only One who can be larger than our circumstances or the times that we live in. Nothing can separate us from that love. An unaddressed factor in this issue is global terrorism. While countries like the Congo have yet to see any sort of real peace for more than 30 years, the additional struggle being faced by a radical wave of extremism is causing more displaced families, vulnerable children, and abandoned orphans throughout this region. Let's pray with the church there that is suffering and ask that the Lord would provide for their current and future needs.
What Can I Do?
Both Ends Burning advocates for families and children who have legally adopted, but, due to political unrest and legislation changes, have been unable to be united. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has stalled the adoption of nearly 800 children to their adoptive families in America. Join and read up on their movement for ways to get involved financially or by advocating.
"Both Ends Burning was created with three primary goals: 1) Revitalize international adoption 2) Collaborate with the nations of the world 3) Facilitate reform through interventions."
Mocha Club Providing orphans in Africa sustainable agriculture programs and homes so that they are still connected with their communities, Mocha Club brings awareness and a simple way to get involved in this culture. "Mocha Club is a community of people, just like you, giving up the cost of a few mochas a month to fight extreme poverty in Africa. We walk alongside local leaders who identify local, sustainable, solutions."
Based in South Africa, this group utilizes a model of care for "Aged-out" orphans very similar to what Empty Frames Initiative is hoping to utilize in Eastern Europe.
"Baphumelele Fountain of Hope provides a holistic continuum of care to young people aged 18-21, who have been raised in residential care or who have recently been orphaned or who are vulnerable, with a safe and nurturing environment to transition positively towards adulthood; providing a platform for youth that are not in formal education, employment or training to learn the necessary skills to contribute to society economically and socially and to allow those youth still in high school to finish their education."
While this organization doesn't say "orphan care" in its title or mission, one way to support the orphan is to support the church. VOM works primarily in restricted nations, providing for and bringing awareness to the persecuted church. They offer opportunities to send care packages to these nations, receive prayer updates on worldwide events and support families of martyrs financially. The founder of VOM, Richard Wurmbrand, has been inspirational to Empty Frames Initiative and opened our eyes to the modern history of persecution in Eastern Europe during the occupation. This opportunity to partner with our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world is incredible! "Serving persecuted Christians through practical and spiritual assistance and leading other members of the Body of Christ into fellowship with them."