Orphanages: The Harsh Realities of Orphan Care in Honduras
Honduras is an extremely impoverished country in Central America. About 75% of the 8 million people living there exist in poverty. As a consequence of this poverty and other factors, 170,000 to 200,000 children live on the streets. Other factors leading to child homelessness are domestic and sexual abuse, substance use, and family issues. Some street children are simply sent to the streets because their families can’t afford them or simply don’t want them. Many of these kids are malnourished, uneducated and addicted to drugs or huffing glue. They are viewed as a nuisance by some of the general population, police, and government agencies.
These orphans who end up living on the streets must face daily threats and risks. Some are threatened with death if they don’t join the local gangs. Perhaps the most serious risk for street children is the day to day fear for their safety in a world where violence could appear just around the corner… Most participate in petty crime to survive. Economic upheaval, social unrest and political turmoil including corruption bring crisis to families and street children. Infections, including HIV are a threat to them. They can’t rely on government or police to help them in times of trouble. These systems are fraught with corruption.
Orphanages in the large cities of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula in Honduras have taken in some of the street children. Unfortunately, some of them have fled the orphanages and gone back to existence on the streets. This situation became common because living in a safe place with food and comfort was not enough to keep them from a life of addiction to the toxic and very addictive “yellow” glue that is highly damaging to the body.
According to Humanium, accurate information about the street children and orphans and their care and rights is difficult to determine. This is because investigation by human rights investigators and journalists are discouraged, and sometimes they are arrested or killed. The best interests of children are not of great concern because of corruption and other economic and political attitudes. The educational system is not adequate and many children drop out. Girls are often reluctant to attend school for fear of sexual assault. Children with disabilities are generally not supported in any of the educational systems and are left in social isolation.
The many problems that these children face can lead to conditions where they must live without a family to care for and protect them. Some are sent to live in special centers, but not enough public money is available for the more than 200,000 to be housed in these centers or other religious orphanages in the country.
An orphanage called the Casitas Kennedy has rescued and cares for some special needs children. These children receive adequate care and learn to read and write. They may learn skills they can use for earning a living. These children and others who are fortunate enough to live in a good orphanage escape the life of danger and extreme poverty. There are not enough facilities to serve all who need help.
Hope is also on the way from a new wave of organizations focusing on the foster care model. In an effort to replicate much of what is good about the privatized foster care agencies in the United States and elsewhere, these groups are helping to identify, educate and support families who are willing to care children. Their hope is to have newborns and very young children who are just entering the system to be in the care of a loving family, and not large orphanages.