The O WordFile this post under “my two cents.” Children in North America who have no parents are commonly referred to as “foster children.” Children from overseas, especially developing countries are called “orphans.” Why is that? They are orphaned for the same reasons reasons in Africa, Asia and the USA. Violence, drugs, and disease are orphan makers in New Deli and New York.

I ask because I am faced with the difference on a regular basis. The work we do at Forever Homes is all about helping parentless kids, and I find myself having to use the very verbose “foster children waiting for adoption and orphans from around the world” when I am really referring to the same thing. If I talk about our work to help orphans find forever homes it implies that I am speaking about the good people doing international adoption. While this annoying the prespective of trying to be succinct and pithy, it bothers me on a much deeper level.

I beleive we have tried to sanitize our civilized nations of orphans. We closed the orphanages and put the healthiest of the kids in foster homes. The more difficult children and sibiling groups live in group homes. We have reserved residential treatment facilities and hospitals for the most difficult kids. Ask me what the difference is between an orphanage and a group home or residential treatment facility. Maybe I should ask you, because I have worked in both and I don’t know. Group care facilites are often more spread out and divided into “cottages” rather than large institution-like buildings, but the numbers of kids haven’t changed, nor has the fact that they don’t have parents. I am not disparaging group homes and RTC’s, there are many great facilities with wonderful and caring staff. My only point is that we stopped calling them orphanages the same way we stopped calling their residents orphans.

Problem is when we expunged the “o” word from our language, I think it gave us a false sense of security. I think we feel good about ourselves for having solved the orphan problem when all we did was move them around, sprinkle some fairy dust, and changed the vocabulary.

We are a nation with orphans and I for one am choosing to include the word in my repertoire. We can’t let America’s orphans slip into obscurity when they so ┬ábadly need us to remember them.

Lynn Owens
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Lynn Owens

Lynn is the co-founder of Forever Homes, and Owner of Canyon Lakes Family Counseling Center, a Mental Health Clinic, where he specializes in treating adopted and foster children. He has over 20 years experience in Residential Care, Foster Care and adoption. Combined he and his wife have parented about 100 kids.
Lynn Owens
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