When I say ‘foster home’ to most people who live in the United States there is no need for an explanation. It is a regular part of the workings of society. This is not the case here in Bolivia.
When I say ‘adoption’ to most people in the United States the response is positive. It is an accepted way to form a family. This is not the case here in Bolivia.
When I say ‘orphanage’ to most people in the United States the first thing they think of is something they have seen in a movie or heard of overseas. The location of the closest orphanage to their home is not common knowledge. This is not the case here in Bolivia.
Since the beginning of 2010 we have been making assessments of the actual situation with the House of Dreams. Looking at the various aspects has been good. The goal is to be able to make a five-year projection of where we are headed. This means we need to know where we are at now. Thinking five years down the line has naturally led us to consider a 20 year projection, as well.
Due to the current cultural paradigm we are facing the majority of the kids who are with us now will live in the House of Dreams until they are independent adults. These Dreamers are our children. We are committed to raising them.
The stark reality is that Bolivian children aged 9 and up are very rarely adopted. Sadly, the legal process once a child enters the system to make them ready to be adopted is at leat 10 months long. This 10 months can be restarted at any time contact is made by a blood relative of the child. The law demands that every effort be made to maintain blood ties. This also means that children as parts of sibling group cannot be separated, even to be adopted.
A portion of our children are already appointed to be adopted within the next year (most all the youngest ones). A portion will be returning to their families when the situation improves, this will happen within the next eighteen months. The third, and greatest, portion of our children are adoption ready but will most likely never be adopted for one or more of the following reasons: 1. they are part of a sibling group, 2. they are getting past the age that most children are adopted, 3. the Bolivian culture has yet to embrace adoption as a positive act, 4. many doors for international adoptions are closing.
What are the numbers, then? Of the 22 children with us now it is most likely that we will be completely responsible for raising 15 of them. I call them Lifetime Dreamers. That is the fact we must plan for. Laws may change; miracles may happen; but we must keep the wellbeing of the children we have in our care at the forefront of the decisions we make.
(For insight into a the stories of each child read the GPS updates.)
If I could staff this home completely with volunteers, I would do that. What a wonder it would be if we had a team of full-time cross cultural missionaries dedicated to raising these kids. To say that we could recruit Bolivian volunteers to help us raise these orphans is lofty, at the very least. A new mindset has to be trained. A new way of thinking needs to be learned. A new way of being needs to be adopted (for lack fo a better word). I am not saying that it can’t happen. I am just saying it would/will be a lot of work, any way you look at it.
In the meantime we have children to care for which means a staff. The people we can afford to hire as operations staff are minimum wage workers. Overturn is high. I am grateful that we have a more permanent administrative staff. Looking at the 15 kids that will most likely be with us until they are grown helps us to have an idea for the care givers we will need.
We need to double the income of the home. Last year was tough. We have learned, made adjustments and made hard decisions. Currently we are working to establish a solid base of sponsors to help us raise these children. In the works are some strategies for raising the needed funds. One of them is to connect individual congregations with each of the Lifetime Dreamers who will be with us long-term. The church will assume the financial responsibility of their child. They will also pray, remember birthdays and maybe even make visits to meet the child they are helping. Beautiful partnerships will be formed.
(If you are interested in sponsoring a child go here: “Sponsor a Dreamer”.)
Taking the preceding three factors into serious consideration (cases, staffing and financial) we have made a tough but good decision. We have decided to not accept any new children.
This decision will remain in effect until one of the following occurs at which time we will re-evaluate:
- We become fully funded (including a fund I would like to create to scholarship Lifetime Dreamers for a university education or other such useful preparation)
- The number of Lifetime Dreamers is reduced by half
- The laws and/or culture change drastically creating more adoptions
Reach for the stars
I wonder sometimes if I will be held accountable for the dreams I have. I’ve got some pretty great big ones. I do know for certain that I will be held accountable for the commitments I have made. I must be honorable to the children in my care. One day I hope that my faith and abilities will grow large enough to make what I imagine a reality. For now, I will do the best I know how to do. When I know better I will do better.
Please continue to pray with us as we forge ahead with defined focus and a clearer direction. Thank you for all you do. You are a vital part of what is happening at the House of Dreams Orphanage, Cochabamba, Bolivia.