Looking at the smiling faces of the kids in our partner orphanages, it can be easy to forget what they’ve been through. As if being separated from their parents weren’t traumatic enough, most of the kids we serve have been victims of abuse and/or neglect that was, in far too many cases, severe.
According to Suraya (shown in the image to the left), a former government therapist in Baja California, approximately 80% of orphaned children she worked with had witnessed or been victims of sexual abuse. This number is staggering, especially considering the fact that sexual abuse is only one of the many types of abuse these kids were likely exposed to.
Across the globe, children who enter orphanages have come from traumatic experiences, such as violence, neglect, or losing a parent. Rarely is there anyone who can help them process those experiences in healthy ways. Psychiatrists studying depression among orphans in Ethiopia stated that untreated childhood trauma “…could leave a long-lasting adverse impact on a child’s mental development.” These children are susceptible to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem as children. Another study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan found that untreated mental health conditions often worsen later in life as teens transition into adulthood. These young adults often fall into alcohol or drug abuse, violent or self-destructive behavior, and even suicide.
One young man at one of our partner orphanages shared that he was consumed, for a long time, with thoughts of getting revenge on his parents—until a caring orphanage director helped him change his mindset and forgive what was in the past. Unfortunately, many orphanage directors simply don’t have the training or time to give each child the one-on-one attention it takes to assist this type of transformation.
But there is hope for these children and their caregivers! Studies show that trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) can bring healing to vulnerable children. TF-CBT includes both the child and the caregiver, and across 15 trials it was found to be the superior treatment for children ages 3-18 who experienced multiple and diverse types of trauma. This therapy can help children overcome grief, PTSD, anxiety, depression, cognitive, relationship and other mental health problems. When treated appropriately and early, many children can fully recover from their mental disorders or, at the least, learn how to successfully control their symptoms. With treatment, children are much more likely to live full and productive adult lives.
Because orphaned children could have their lives changed for the better by mental health care, we include therapeutic care as a cornerstone of our Child Advancement Programs (formerly known as Child’s Hope Plans). You can help us roll out these programs for our partner orphanages to provide tutoring, therapy, caregiver support, and mentorship to the kids to give them the best chance at a bright future.
For just $22 each month, you can provide therapy for a child in need. We invite you to join our Aunt and Uncle program today by becoming a recurring donor and helping us get these kids the one-on-one attention, help, and healing they deserve.