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We have to speak up for the millions of kids without a loving family
Douglas R. Chalke
At a time in Canada when things are going relatively well, the number of orphans in the world is increasing dramatically. It is easy for us to be so busy with our own lives that we fail to notice events happening around the world. At this moment there are 160 million orphans in the world and the number will grow by 5% to 10% each year over the next ten years--250 million children by 2017!
These are the vulnerable children of the world. They have been abandoned by their parents because of poverty or sickness. They are frequently abused, trafficked or just forgotten about. The main causes are poverty, war and AIDS. I recently attended a world conference on children without parental care and it was clear that intercountry adoption has become the last option that countries will turn to, if they consider it at all.
As a result, tens of millions of children will grow up without a loving family to care for them, many of them in orphanages. This is contrary to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which provides that a child has the right to grow up in a family environment. More to the point, it defies common sense! There are thousands of parents in the Western World who could provide children with safe and loving homes.
Who is going to speak for these children? Until the world accomplishes its goal of having children grow up in loving families in their countries of origin, I would submit that it is in a child's best interest to grow up in a family environment wherever that is possible--be it Berlin, New York City or Vancouver.
My concern is that we are throwing the baby out with the bath water in a very real sense. Children are growing up in orphanages without parental care, while parents in the western world are increasingly searching for ways to create a family. This is counter-intuitive: more orphans in the world and more infertile couples desperately hoping for a family, and yet fewer international adoptions.
What can I do?
1. Provide support to programs that provide an integrated approach to keeping families together in developing countries.
2. Encourage the Government of Canada to live up to its commitment of providing international aid to the level of 0.7% of our GNP to provide relief of poverty (which they have not yet done).
3. Send support to help a child to become educated and obtain skills to earn a living.
4. Think about adopting a child internationally.
One person cannot change the world. One person can change the life of a child.
Douglas R. Chalke is executive director of Sunrise Adoption agency in North Vancouver, British Columbia.
©2007 Sunrise Family Services Society
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