Picture a cozy home filled with laughter, warmth, and unconditional love. Now, juxtapose that with the vast, stark corridors of an orphanage, a rotating cast of caretakers, and routine hazing from peers.
I think everyone would agree: every child deserves a safe and loving home. After all, God designed the family as the environment in which children were to grow up! So it shouldn’t surprise us that growing evidence supports the importance of a family setting for the holistic development of children.
Of course, orphanages have played a crucial role in providing care for children who have lost their parents or have been abandoned. We acknowledge that some staff members in institutions are dedicated to ensuring the well-being of these children. However, when it comes to the emotional, mental, and overall development of a child, nothing beats the embrace of a loving family.
A family setting cultivates an intimate and secure environment, instilling in children an unshakeable sense of belonging and acceptance. That’s why the family-style model is close to our hearts and one of the primary goals of our work; it’s in this setting that children can truly experience God’s unconditional love through their parents, siblings, and extended family.
Family-style homes offer children:
1. Role models of faith: From daily prayers and Bible study to attending church together, children in a family setting witness firsthand how their parents live out their faith. This nurturing environment fosters spiritual growth, where children can develop their own personal relationship with God, learn biblical values, and understand the significance of prayer and worship. A family rooted in faith provides a solid spiritual foundation that shapes the child’s worldview and prepares them to live out their own faith in Christ in a meaningful way.
2. The setting for physical growth: Due to the lack of physical touch and good nutrition, for every 2 years a child spends in an institution, his or her adult height is reduced by an inch. In addition, their risks of addictions, heart problems, strokes, and suicide increase significantly. A home, on the other hand, helps a child receive the care they need to grow strong and healthy bodies.
3. Stability and attachment: Families provide a solid foundation for a child’s upbringing. One of the most beautiful aspects of a family is its lifelong nature. In an orphanage, children may experience multiple transitions, with caregivers changing throughout the day. But in a family, children find stability and the assurance that they will always have a place to call home. It’s a bond that lasts beyond childhood and extends into adulthood, creating a support system that sustains them throughout their lives. This emotional stability positively impacts their self-esteem, social skills, and ability to form healthy relationships later in life.
4. Life skills acquisition: So many of the things a child learns in a family setting are not directly taught. Rather, they’re “caught” along the way to adulthood as children interact with their parents or guardians. Without formal instruction, children come to know basic traffic signs, shopping skills, work ethic, elementary cooking, and more! Children growing up in institutions often graduate lacking the ability to navigate public transportation, boil an egg, or hold a job.
5. A sense of belonging: The concept of family goes beyond mere blood relations. In the family of God, we are all connected and bound by the love of Christ. When children are embraced into a family, whether through adoption, fostering, or kinship care, they experience a profound sense of belonging. They become part of a community that loves and accepts them unconditionally, mirroring the love of Jesus. This belongingness instills a deep sense of identity and self-worth in children, helping them grow into confident individuals who can impact the world with their unique gifts.
6. Individual attention and care: In a family, every child is unique and is nurtured according to their specific needs, talents, and aspirations. Unlike the standardized care provided in an orphanage, a family setting allows for personalized attention, ensuring that each child receives the necessary support to thrive. Parents can tailor their approach to education, extracurricular activities, and emotional guidance, providing a holistic upbringing that encourages the child’s personal growth and exploration. Personalized parental guidance helps them navigate life’s challenges, providing a safe space for them to explore their interests, ask questions, and grow into their potential.
7. A model of the gospel: Just as God looked on us with love and adopted us as His own, He calls us to care for the marginalized and vulnerable, including orphans. By creating a family setting for the orphaned and vulnerable, we actively participate in the restoration and redemption of these children’s lives. We become instruments of God’s love, stepping in to provide a loving, stable, and nurturing environment where they can thrive. As a result, entire communities witness a demonstration of the gospel when children are taken in and loved as family.
The Boaz Project, inspired by the belief that every child deserves a safe and loving home, champions the idea that a family setting is undeniably superior to an orphanage…and research overwhelmingly supports the notion! While orphanages may serve as a temporary solution in certain situations, the long-term benefits of growing up in a family setting are evident. Unconditional love, individualized attention, positive role modeling, stability, and a sense of belonging all contribute to the holistic development and future success of a child. By embracing the power of family, we can create a world where every child has the opportunity to thrive and fulfill their potential.