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Orphan Outreach

A Family Affair—Promoting Family in Honduras

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What does it mean to prioritize family in an orphan care ministry? In truth, it can mean a great number of things. At its heart, however, it means placing children in the context of family, whenever possible. Why? Because, as God’s design, we believe it is in the best interest of the child.

While each of our countries demonstrate this commitment, Honduras provides a fascinating look into three ministries and the unique ways they are prioritizing families. These organizations are NiCo, Hope of Jesus, and the Government’s new Foster Care program and a network of foster families around the country.

NiCo- Strengthening Families

Niño—Comunidad, or NiCo, was designed to impact communities by investing in their children. Prior to the pandemic, NiCo offered an Early Childhood Development Program to meet the needs of pre-school and Kindergarten students, and an afterschool program that offered help to students in 1st through 6th grades. Once COVID arrived, however, the ministry’s focus shifted.

“When the pandemic hit, we worked hard to prevent family disintegration by identifying the biggest vulnerabilities our families were facing, which was and still is, lack of food and income,” said Austin South, Orphan Outreach’s Regional Director for Latin America.

“We began providing monthly food bags while at the same time working to bridge the widening educational gap. All the public schools shut down due to COVID, so we began creating homework packets that we sent home to the kids. We're just now bringing kids back in on a small group basis for therapies with the psychologist and to walk through the educational packets in person.”

Helping children stay fed and advancing in their education is a key part of strengthening families, and an important aspect of NiCo’s ministry. But Austin believes strengthening families goes beyond meeting tangible needs:

“Strengthening families is not just about dealing with an alcoholic dad or trying to help a family establish an income,” Austin explained, “I think it goes a step deeper than that. It’s becoming a resource, a safety net, that is there for them no matter what happens. I believe COVID provided an opportunity for us to show our families that we are a reliable resource and we care deeply for them as a whole. Our organization was able to walk alongside these families through a difficult time, and I think experiencing that hardship together has allowed us to grow closer.”

Hope of Jesus- Reuniting Families

While NiCo strives to preserve families are that already together, Hope of Jesus (HOJ) is invested in piecing together families that have been broken and scattered. Four years ago, Orphan Outreach began helping HOJ make the seismic shift from a traditional orphanage model to a therapeutic residential model; blazing a new trail that would lead their children down the path of permanency.

“When the protective system places kids at Hope of Jesus,” Austin shared, “they begin working with our multi-disciplinary team. This team is made up of a psychologist, a social worker, a program director, and our interim director. Their focus is to help kids through their trauma, learning disabilities, emotional needs, and medical issues. They’re focused on getting the child stable and assessing what kind of resources they have for permanency- whether that’s in an adoptive family or reuniting them with their original family.”

The primary goal is to reunite these children with their families of origin. Unfortunately, for many of these kids, that goal amounts to a herculean task.

“There’s a lot of things working against us- lost files, government turnover- but the staff at HOJ do not take ‘no’ for an answer. Instead, they grab the stack of files on each child and they start searching, leaving no stone unturned. They essentially act as detectives, visiting town after town, personally tracking down each child’s family,” Austin said.

Miraculous results have come from these efforts: families, who had buried an empty coffin believing their child to be dead, have been reunited with their child, now 14 years old. And children who were led to believe they didn't have a family, have been introduced to their aunts, and uncles, and grandparents.

Tegucigalpa- Fostering Families

Somewhere between preserving existing families and reuniting broken families, we have the foster care system. In this brand new system the Government now has a network of 27 families that have recently been certified to foster. While this past year was not what anyone expected, it was nonetheless a successful start to a promising program.

“Our first child placement was on March 12th, 2020 and then the country shut down on March 16. Finding that balance between what can we do virtually, what do we have to do in person, and how to keep pushing the ball down the field- that's what the team has been doing over the last year and a half,” explained Austin.

Despite the rocky start, the new system is doing wonders for the protective system overall, by lifting the standard of care and marking out a reliable path to providing excellent foster care for children in need.

“At this point, you would have to really try to get lost in the foster care system- the path is very clearly marked out. This is a blank slate for the Honduran protective system and we’ve felt a communal sense of, ‘We're gonna do it well, we're gonna follow the letter and the spirit of the law, we're gonna do the hard work, even though it requires a greater investment of time and money.’ It’s having a lasting impact”, said Austin.

Once again, because of an incredible team of dedicated staff, children are being taken out of tragic situations, cared for, and placed into loving foster families. Allowing their own families time to do the important work of regaining permanency.

Joining in this Story of Hope

In each of these stories, there is a common thread of hope, restoration, and relentless optimism. Would you partner with us in our commitment to prioritizing families for each child in our care? Learn how you can partner with us as we work to restore hope and families.

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