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Orphanages Are NOT the Answer! Part 2: Uniting Families

Updated: Jan 2

Overture International is a staunch advocate for ending the orphanage system in Haiti. As we detailed in our inaugural Orphanages Are NOT the Answer! booklet (part 1 of the series)

released earlier this year, orphanages in Haiti are the source of significant trauma, abuse and corruption, causing great harm to the children they profess to help. Too many parents in Haiti are faced with the unthinkable choice of handing their children over to an orphanage so they at least have a chance to receive an education and their basic needs met, or keep them at home where they won’t have those opportunities. Orphanage owners exploit this situation for their own gain and actually recruit children to come to their orphanage knowing that they can raise money off their presence in the orphanage.

Overture has committed to being a force for closing these orphanages, uniting the children with their families or foster families and helping willing orphanages to transition from a place of harm to a center for community development. That’s why we’ve focused our second booklet in the Orphanages Are NOT the Answer! Series on Uniting Families. 

In this latest installment in the Orphanages Are NOT The Answer! Series, we highlight both the challenges of reunifying and fostering children from orphanages as well as the proven process we’ve followed to ensure the best possible outcomes. Even before the children can be placed in their new home, they have experienced considerable adversity in their time at the orphanage:

  • Many of these children are institutionalized, spending more than half their young lives in the orphanage system.

  • The children lack the basic, essential life skills associated with healthy child development. 

  • The young people were never able to develop healthy attachments and became dependent on the orphanage, causing significant anxiety, depression and acting out. 

  • Even more devastating is the frequent and severe physical, sexual and emotional abuse that is so prevalent in the orphanage system in Haiti. 

This is why Overture is working closely with the Haitian IBESR (their national child welfare agency) to provide access to much needed social services, counseling and support as we work to reunite and place children from orphanages with loving, caring families. This partnership is valuable for IBESR, who has authority over the orphanage and child welfare system. IBESR recognizes Overture's experience and success in reuniting children from orphanages, and Overture values the weight, resources and authority IBESR brings to the process. Ending the orphanage system is a bold, audacious goal and will require the full force and commitment of organizations like Overture as well as the support and authority of the Haitian government. That’s why we’re investing a great deal of time and resources to build and cultivate this relationship. 

The ESPWA Success Story

When we speak to the challenges and opportunities of reuniting families, we speak from experience. Overture’s roots in reunification were firmly planted when we took responsibility for the ESPWA orphanage in 2018, and then began reuniting the 252 children in 2020. Three years later, we’ve seen a 100% success rate in the children remaining with their families. The lessons we learned have been invaluable in developing an effective model for child reunification and orphanage transformation. We detail this complex and compelling journey in booklet two of the Orphanages Are NOT the Answer! Series. Some of the lessons learned include:

  • You must have a strategic plan for the reunification and transformation process.

  • The process should begin with an assessment of the causes of the separations for each child so that those gaps can be identified and plans to overcome them put in place. 

  • Great care and planning should be taken in preparing the children and families for reunification and placement in foster families. The more equipped they are to handle the inevitable problems that will arise, the more likely they will be successful. 

  • A strong Social Support Model that addresses the five key areas of family and community strengthening - Empowerment, Education, Nutrition, Healthcare and Housing - must be implemented to help these families achieve self-reliance. 

  • The transformation of ESPWA from orphanage to community center has been critical to Overture’s work in equipping the local community to build a sustainable, more self-reliant infrastructure and economy. 

Sarah’s Success Story

In booklet two, we share a number of success stories of the 252 children and their families who were reunited and placed from the ESPWA orphanage transition. Sarah is one of those 252 children who left ESPWA with a three-year transition plan. She was not able to be reunified with her immediate family but was able to be placed in a foster home with Ms. Marie who has seen Sarah make significant progress in all areas of her life in the year they have been together. Sarah was placed in the ESPWA orphanage by her father when she was four years old. Her father also grew up in the orphanage, which resulted in him struggling to integrate into society and therefore perpetuated the orphanage cycle with his own child. 

When she arrived at Ms. Marie's, Sarah was timid and small for her age and was emotionally fragile. Today, Sarah is in the 5th grade and doing well at school. She has friends there and has gained weight and is physically healthy. Many in their neighborhood don’t even know Sarah is a foster child because she has become an integral part of the family. Ms. Marie says, “Sarah truly is part of our family. She is showing improvement each day. We’re so grateful for her and for Overture walking with us on this journey.”

If Sarah were the only success that came out of the reunification process, it would all be worth it. But the fact that all 252 children and their families have overcome the challenges and obstacles inherent in the process is a huge testament to the work of our team, the families, the IBESR and of the value of the investment of Overture financial supporters. Reunification and transformation are possible! 

To learn more about Overture’s work in ending the orphanage system and to download the Orphanage Are NOT the Answer! Series booklets visit:

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