Several years back my wife and I were regular volunteers for a local orphanage. It was run by Catholic nuns, and we were there 2-3 times per month watching after, interacting, and playing with numerous boys and girls ages 3 to 13. For us, it was a very moving and worthwhile use of our (free) time, and it seemed like the children enjoyed us being there.
When we told people what we were doing, the common reaction was “I didn’t know they had orphanages anymore”. That always struck me as odd. Why wouldn’t we have orphanages? Don’t we still have orphans? To be honest, with the general breakdown of the nuclear family and other issues (addictions, etc) over the past few decades, we probably have more orphans now than we did in the 1960’s.
Many people believe that an orphan is a child that has no parents due to death or accident. The generic story of a husband and wife dying in a car accident or place crash, when they had 2 young children staying elsewhere at the time. Then these 2 children would have no parents, and would potentially be left to the custody of an orphanage.
However, this is rarely the case. Ask any social worker, or the nuns in this circumstance, and they will tell you that over 80% of the children have a parent that is alive, but has voluntarily or been forced to give up custody of their child. In either case, this is incredibly distressing and damaging to these children- no matter what their age is. Many of these children have psychological conditions that they will battle with for their entire lives, due to what they have witnessed and been subjected to as a youth.
Volunteering there was somewhat of a revelation for me. It was very powerful, and it gave me a perspective and understanding, and a compassion, that many others would not have. These “abandoned” children deserve the best that we (society and especially the Church) can offer.
God is very clear as to His opinion on orphans. There are numerous verses discussing the travails of the orphan; a selected few are below:
“You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.” (Exodus 22:21)
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.” (James 1:27)
“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:17)
If you look around in your own State or county, you will likely find an orphanage or some other similarly-named “children/ adolescents group home”. Whether they are managed and counseled by the government or by a church or charity, there are children there that did not choose to be there. Please become educated about the needs in your area, and also consider offering help- which could possibly include volunteering or even becoming a foster parent.