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Orphan Outreach Helps Launch Pilot Foster Care Program in Honduras
by Christine Bolaños
Posted on Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Honduras, one of the most economically insecure countries in Latin America, is home to an estimated 170,000 orphans according to UNICEF. These children are oftentimes subjected to a lifetime of poverty and lack of opportunity for advancement. But government officials recently entered into an agreement with Orphan Outreach and other NGOs to launch a pilot foster care program aimed at finding homes for displaced children that could have profound effects on the future of the country’s youth.

signing papers

Orphan Outreach is called to develop and write best practice standards for foster care in Honduras. Staff hopes to have the protocol written within the next six weeks and will then work with partners to identify, recruit, train and equip about 15 foster care families who open their homes to about 20 children in the Tegucigalpa area. The organization’s staff plans to simultaneously train government officials so they can expand the program into other areas of the country, by collaborating with other NGOs, orphanages, private homes, churches, and other entities.

The agreement with the social services division in Honduras to develop the privatized foster care program is the first partnership of its kind between private and public sectors. If developed and executed properly it could revolutionize the way foster care is handled and transform orphan care in Honduras.

The purpose

“The long-term goal is to develop this model and fine tune it to be the best possible model and ensuring its working well within the context of Honduras and use it as a center for training,” explains Rey Diaz, executive director for Orphan Outreach, based in Plano, Texas.

The partnership is with the National Office for Children and Families, or DINAF, established in 2014 to provide better quality oversight of orphans and vulnerable children. DINAF replaced the now-defunct Honduran Institute of Children and Family.

“It used to be very well-funded and had well over 300 employees,” says Mireya Sevillla, director of programs for Orphan Outreach in Honduras. “In the past, the government used to have children’s homes and they all closed down.”

She says the number of employees was cut down to 157 staff and the budget was also cut significantly. DINAF is partnering with Orphan Outreach to ensure better results this time.

Due to transition, there are no complete records of children in the foster care system.

“The old way of dealing with the government stopped working and they put the new system in place,” Mireya explains. “All the records, or most of the records, were erased. The new system doesn’t really have a full number of homes or all the files on the children.”

Some of those children are almost certainly still with foster families they were placed with and some of those families have petitioned to begin the adoption process. But most children are not so fortunate.

The philosophy

Mireya says Orphan Outreach works in the entire spectrum of children’s care, including family reunification, family reintegration, residential care, foster care, helping children age out of the system and everything in between.

honduras kid

Austin J.P. South, Orphan Outreach’s regional director in Latin America, also based in Honduras, calls this “therapeutic care.”

“Seeing that there was this big gap with foster care we felt it was important to provide a guideline in best practices and a very sound project to help the children,” Mireya shares.

Lacking the funding, staff, or training to see the program through itself, the government plans to partner with NGOs to place children in private residential homes.

Orphan Outreach will provide funding and tools for the program as well as provide training to staff on foster care evaluations and follow-up.

Austin says the process ensures that the program always has the child’s best interest at heart and allows for an individualized approach to each.

“It’ll be case by case because definitely every child is different,” Mireya emphasized. “Their needs are unique and different. Part of what we want to do is serve them specifically for each individual need and treat each child like what they are: special and unique. They are God’s children and we have to be very careful and loving to their specific needs.”

The goal

The philosophy for the program mirrors the programs the organization has established in Latvia, Russia, Kenya and soon, Guatemala. Though each program is customized to accommodate each country’s needs, ultimately the goal is the same: to provide loving families to children who fall through the cracks. Rey said the first program of its kind was launched in Russia in 1998.

And while the agreement puts Orphan Outreach at the forefront of the effort Rey reiterated that there are many key players that make it a possibility, including several private homes in Honduras.

“We’re kind of just pushing the agenda,” he says. “One of our strengths is getting a vast coalition of people with similar perspectives and drive them to accomplish a single goal.”

In Guatemala’s case, where the evangelical church’s presence is strong, it is imperative that Orphan Outreach work with strong evangelical church leaders in conjunction with NGOs and the government. Partnerships with other NGOs were key to operating the program in Kenya, while in Latvia, Orphan Outreach found itself working with both private and public sectors.

“The end goal is to expand the continuum of care where most countries---especially developing countries dependent on group homes and orphanages---expand to have foster care, domestic adoption, community-based programs, so there are different modes of taking care of children in those countries,” shares Rey.

Mireya says Orphan Outreach staff plans to work with churches who have committed Christian-loving families as members. The churches’ role will be to provide wraparound support to these families, helping to meet physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

Orphan Outreach is in the process of hiring someone to complete the program manual, tools, training, forms needed to find and evaluate potential foster families. She says they hope to launch by fall.

“I think this is going to be a light in the middle of darkness because things have not always been so straightforward or very well thought out or planned out or carried out,” shares Mireya, a lifelong Honduran.

Research has made it clear that children develop better in families and if equipped with a support system at home they have the tools to thrive later in life, says Rey.

“Foster care in itself isn’t a perfect system but when it’s done right it can make a big difference,” he believes.

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