Aging out of the System….Then What?

4 Jun

Blog post by Janice O., Team Uganda 2011             

A child growing up in a loving home has hopes, dreams and desires of the life they will eventually live, the person they will become some day, and their future as a happy adult.  How is that different from an orphan child in Africa? In Africa 11 million children die each year before the age of 5.  Many of these orphan children don’t think of their future adult lives, because most are thinking of when they will eat their next meal, where they will sleep tonight, or how they will survive another day.  There are approximately 143 million orphans worldwide and in Africa, 2,102,400 children are becoming orphans each year.  The lucky ones may enter into an orphanage system, to be cared for by strangers with the hopes of being adopted some day by a loving, caring family.   With only 250,000 African adoptions annually, there is a desperate need for a change. 

Sadly, less than 12% of orphans will actually exit out of the system with a family.  An orphan child spends an average of ten years in an orphanage or foster care.   By age 16, over 14,050,000 will age out of the system, which is an astounding 38,493 each day.  These children are forced to leave the food, shelter and only home they have known and learn to survive on their own. Orphaned children easily fall prey to predators and slave recruiters since they have no family, no home and no food.

With 99% of orphans not being adopted, older orphaned children are in a world crisis.  There are many issues associated with a child aging out of the system in Africa, such as child soldering, slavery, prostitution, or whatever it takes to survive on the streets.  In Uganda alone, over 20,000 children have been abducted and forced to serve as child soldiers for the LRA, Lord’s Resistance Army.  The LRA was created by abducting small children and forcing them to enlist in their cause.  The children spend their innocent lives in hard labor and as front-line soldiers.  Many of the girls become sex slaves and enter into child prostitution.  What kind of life is this to look forward to for these innocent children?  The children of Africa are at risk of a short life filled with disease, hurt, sadness, and violence. They should be thinking about playing jump rope or chasing their friends around the yard, but instead they are looking for food, shelter and a safe place to sleep at night.

This cycle has continued for many years and will continue without ambassadors of Christ.  We are asked to, “Seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow” Isaiah 1:17.  As Christians we are to share God’s Word, to lift up those in need, to do, not just observe.  Helen Keller wrote, “I am only one, but still I am one.  I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can do.” We know we can do all things through Christ, so let’s get started.

Janice will be serving on the Uganda Journey 117 Team leaving in June 2011.

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