TWO hundred and forty individuals and organisations have signed a pledge that calls on Christians to take action on behalf of vulnerable children in orphanages around the world.
Church leaders who have backed the initiative, Global Church Pledge, include the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, who is the Church’s lead bishop for children and families, and the senior pastor at Kerith Community Church, Simon Benham.
The Global Church Pledge states: “We believe God designed families as the best environment for children and young people to receive the love, belonging, and protection they need in order to flourish. Therefore, on behalf of vulnerable children around the world, we commit to support efforts which strengthen families, invest in family-based solutions, and combat the root causes of their vulnerability.”
The pledge was developed by the Faith to Action Initiative, a US-based organisation that seeks to promote family-based care as an alternative to orphanages; Homecoming (a project of the fostering and adoption charity Home for Good); and the Christian organisation World Without Orphans. It originated in the Better Care Network, a coalition of development organisations that includes USAID and UNICEF.
The initiative is now a separate entity supported by the Tides Network, a group of philanthropic organisations which provides funds for non-profit and “social-impact” organisations, and which has itself been partly funded in the past by billionaire philanthropists including George Soros, Bill Gates, and the founder of eBay, Pierre Omidyar.
Bishop Butler said: “For children, families are the best place in which to grow up. So we need to do all we can to encourage families to foster and adopt children where that is needed rather than place them in institutional care, however well run that might be. This is an issue for every nation on earth.”
Organisations to have signed up to the initiative, which invites Christians to “mobilise to see vulnerable children thriving with loving families”, include World Vision, Evangelical Alliance UK, and Care for Children.
The chief executive of Home for Good, Tania Bright, said in a statement: “I was delighted to sign the Global Church Pledge on behalf of Home for Good, as we wholeheartedly believe that children should grow up in safe and loving families.”
There are an estimated 2.7 million children living in residential care around the world, although the real number is said to be much higher, UNICEF’s latest data suggest. In recent years, concern has mounted about the detrimental effects that institutional care can have on children’s development. This has led to the adoption by the UN General Assembly of a Resolution on the Rights of the Child, in 2019. In the UK, the Foreign Office changed its guidance on gap-year travel in 2018, to warn volunteers against visiting orphanages.
A childcare-reform advocate and co-founder of ReRoot Africa, Ruth Wacuka, said: “From my experience of growing up in an orphanage, I know all too well that this is not the best environment children thrive in. This Global Church Pledge is a huge step in bringing the Church together.”
The pledge can be signed and a toolkit of resources downloaded at globalchurchpledge.org