Stories

God Sets the Lonely in Families

Jan 21, 2014

Steph Duff

By Hannah Fay, Back2Back Mexico

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families.” Psalm 68:5-6a

Isa arrived at the children’s home unsure of what to expect. She listened attentively as her caregivers, two Back2Back staff members, welcomed her to the dorm. As they showed her where he would be sleeping, they watched as her eyes grew wider and wider until she suddenly blurted out, “Are you serious?  That is my bed….I get my own bed!”

Astonished, they stared as the ten year-old girl leapt into the bed and settled down under the blankets. “Is it ok if I go to bed right now?,” she asked. Over the next several days, Isa’s caregivers discovered that she had no identifying paperwork and that consequently she had never been permitted to attend school. Isa could not even write her own name. Her caregivers, who successfully advocated her placement in the third grade, are actively preparing her for the start of her first ever school year.

Isa represents one of 163 million “fatherless” and “lonely” depicted in Psalm 68 for whom Back2Back Ministries seeks to provide care for today and hope for tomorrow. Isa came to us from an at-risk community where the majority of her time was spent on the streets. On the spectrum of orphan care this environment places her at the highest risk for not having her developmental needs met. The day Isa moved into an orphanage, she consequently moved up the spectrum of care. She now has a better chance of having her needs provided for; however, she will still be at-risk of not having her needs met due to the harmful effects of institutionalization on children.

For children like Isa, who live in a Back2Back supported children’s home, we coordinate activities and volunteer programs to mitigate the negative effects of being raised in an institutional setting. Using Back2Back’s 5-Point Child Development Plan, we provide holistic care, addressing each individual child’s spiritual, physical, educational, emotional, and social needs. The programs serve as a tool to combat the statistics that point to the devastating effects of institutionalization on a child’s development. Simultaneously, Back2Back is committed to restructuring the children’s homes in order to provide better quality care. Tangibly speaking, this means lower child to worker ratios, quality and committed caregivers, continuing education for direct service providers, apartment-style living within the children’s homes, ending the harmful practice of graduating dorms due to age and adding a team of specialists including social workers and psychologists in each home. These short-term solutions will enact long-term change in the process of moving up the spectrum of care. By implementing these changes children like Isa will understand how to create healthy bonds of attachment with their caregiver that they will then be able to transfer back to their family of origin should they reunify or with foster or adoptive parents. For those who find themselves in institutions without the intervention of a foster family, staff will rely on the specialist team at each institution, who will work with the biological family and child protective services to create a plan for either reunification with the biological family or placement in an adoptive family. Our ultimate goal is for each child to be in a family setting whenever possible.

For the orphan child in the state of Nuevo Leon, where our ministry site in Monterrey, Mexico is located, the only option prior to 2013 was institutional care or in some rare cases adoption. Back2Back is proud to announce their partnership with the government’s child protective services  and the start of the very first foster care system in Monterrey thus expanding the number of options available on the spectrum of care within this community. Currently, there are nine families who have completed the training course. They stand ready to intercept the child on his way from his home to the institution, in an effort to provide a better standard of care and meet the individual needs of the orphan child in the context of a family. We stand firm on God’s promise in Psalm 68 that He will put the lonely in families. We are hopeful, as we are now able to offer better alternative care solutions for Isa and the many children in our care just like him.

Steph Duff is a writer, daughter, sister, and really loud laugher. By day she lends her voice on behalf of orphaned and vulnerable children with Back2Back Ministries. By night she is readily found with her nose in a book and spending time with her dachshund, Addy. At all hours, she can be found consuming copious amounts of coffee. She feels most herself in the heat of India and prefers her mugs big, her books long, and her words intentional.

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