30 November 2010

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.

Wednesday November 24, 2010
Of orphans and orphanages

Children in orphanages, some of whom have parents, bring much emotional baggage to their new ‘homes’, baggage that is often not dealt with at all.

AMID our outcry about babies being dumped, there is one thing we forget. Those children who live need our attention, too.

Recently I went to visit what I thought was an orphanage. An orphanage, to me, is where orphans – children with no parents – live. As it turned out, I was to learn a lot about orphans and orphanages.

According to my host, orphans make up only a small percentage of the inhabitants of orphanages. The rest of the children who live there do have parents but are forced to live apart from them for various reasons.

Many have only one parent, usually the mother, who simply cannot afford to care for them. Some parents have moved on in their lives and just didn’t have space for their kids.

Still others actually have two parents but have been ordered by the court to live away from them because of abuse.

It’s hard to decide which are the saddest cases. One girl had lost both parents in a car accident, after which the courts gave custody of her and her siblings to their mother’s relatives.

Sadly, this did not make their lives better because their relatives apparently only wanted their inheritance. Once the inheritance was gone, they were shunted off to the orphanage.

Perhaps the relatives had never heard of the Quranic verse 4:2: “Hence, render unto the orphans their possessions, and do not substitute bad things [of your own] for the good things [that belong to them], and do not consume their possessions together with your own: this, verily, is a great crime.”

Another girl had been there for five years, even though in fact she had parents who were divorced. Each holiday she went “home” but because her father ignored her, it was always an unhappy visit.

By all accounts, this is a good orphanage because it is not over-crowded and the children are well fed, cared for and go to school. It is also open to motivational programmes, which was why I visited and talked to the girls.

Other orphanages are filled to the brim with kids from so many different backgrounds.

Some are true orphans, some are not; many have been abused.

What is certain is that they all bring much emotional baggage to their new “homes”, baggage which is often not dealt with at all.

We often see in the newspapers cute kids being taken on outings to the zoo, movies and other treats. But rarely do we enquire into the backgrounds of these kids to find out their stories.

It is probably that enquiry that they need most, for someone to ask them why they are there. If their stories are not dealt with, their emotional scars will not be revealed and they cannot heal.

Many years ago, a family friend from the United States adopted a little girl from an orphanage here.

When she returned to the States, she made it known that her new daughter had siblings who were also up for adoption.

A friend of hers adopted the brother and sister and everyone thought it would be a happy ending because all the siblings were living close to each other.

Sadly, both families went through years of difficulties with these children who for some reason did not feel secure enough to think of their new homes as permanent.

Who knows what caused them to think of running away from a safe comfortable home?

The last I heard, my friend’s daughter, now in her 20s, had finally stabilised and settled down, but I don’t know what happened to her siblings.

Having met the girls recently at the orphanage, I now realise that there is a wide range of child abuse. While the more visible forms of physical abuse are easy to spot, we don’t see the invisible forms, such as the emotional abuse that they may have undergone, sometimes by their own parents.

The question is, what do we do for these children? Are we really looking after all these children and helping them so that they may have an equal footing with kids who are luckier?

Children who have suffered violence and abuse, including sexual abuse, tend to go on to become violent and abusive adults. What do we do to prevent that?

What do we do to protect their rights? According to UN statistics, there are 410,000 orphans, presumably only those with no parents, in Malaysia. Curiously, we have no figures for how many are in school.

These days, with so many reports of fatal motor accidents, I wonder how many children they orphan and what really happens to them afterwards? How do we ensure justice for kids like these?

Nov 20 was Universal Children’s Day and the 21st anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Sign up at www.uniteagainstabuse.my if you think no child should be abused.