This week’s ROOM contributor is Cassie Murray. Cassie has served Reach Out Orphanage Ministries in many capacities. She served as a ROOM missionary in Costa Rica and Honduras, spearheading orphan prevention, orphanage support and orphan care solution initiatives along with her husband, Kyle, and their four children. Cassie currently serves as a ROOM Honduras Country Director, splitting her time between serving in Honduras and in the U.S. Today’s blog tells the story of what ROOM’s ministry does through Cassie’s passionate and experienced words.
“What does R.O.O.M do?”
It’s the question I love.
Most askers want a quick answer– “We work with orphans.” –and then we can move on to discussing politics, gas prices, and what our families are up to lately. But, unfortunately, the answer isn’t quick.
The answer can’t be quick because the issue is too big.
Our heart is to answer (in part) the call of James 1:27 to represent pure religion through caring for orphans. Asking the question of what we do is so layered because at every step… in every moment… in every effort… we are confronted with another issue.
When I came to ROOM, in my eagerness and innocence, I came to love.
It reminds me of the scene in the Hunger Games when Katniss returns to District 12 and witnesses first-hand the destruction that has occurred. She heard it was bad. She had even seen videos and pictures. But nothing compared to that moment when she surveyed the damage with her own two eyes.
This is what we are dealing with. There isn’t one answer to the global orphan crisis. Every child is a story and every story has a unique set of situations that create a new Katniss-at-District-12-moment.
ROOM’s mission is to empower children and communities by sharing the love of Christ through abandonment prevention, orphanage support, and family placement solutions.
That is the quick answer.
But what does it mean? The answer to that second question is the “Katniss-moment” we have with each child.
This is the moment when we look at the destruction and ask the Lord, “What would you have us do now?”
ROOM’s first hope is to keep a child from ever becoming an “orphan.” Census data reports that Honduras has around 180,000 children identified as orphans. However, after digging a little deeper, this number can be broken down a little more through understanding what circumstances led children to be classified as orphans. The staggering reality is that the largest portion of children are orphaned due to poverty.
The moments where we have walked alongside the population most crippled by poverty is when I feel closest to this struggle. I understand. When I served as a foster mother in ROOM’s largest Transition Home in San Pedro Sula, Honduras I saw mothers look at me and see my children thinking, “This is the answer.” I’ve heard it from people who mean well; saying, “What a blessing this child came to you and has all they need!” This is incorrect. The minute we let ourselves think like this we have unwittingly fallen into the crisis. Without my experiences, I might think the same.
For families trapped in extreme poverty, surviving is an all-day job. Meeting emotional needs is a luxury. These are the parents ROOM wants to know. We want to empower these moms and dads to keep their children; to go beyond meeting their children’s basic needs, and to break the cycle of abandonment in this generation so it will not continue to ensnare their grandchildren.
Every abandoned child who came into my home had already suffered an incredible loss.
When I received their sweet bodies into my arms, the blessing is not that I could provide and their mothers couldn’t; the blessing was that I was able to give them the individualized care of a mother despite that first devastating loss of leaving their biological family.
This is what I understand now. This is what ROOM’s first hope is: Can we somehow help keep that first loss from happening? Can we prevent child abandonment? Many times the answer is,”yes.”
ROOM prevents abandonment through outreach ministry in slum communities in Honduras, through building meaningful relationships with families in crisis and by meeting emergency needs. In India, ROOM also hosts a free daycare program for young children at-risk for abandonment.
When the answer is, “No;” when ROOM cannot empower a biological family to care for their children, or when that family is unsafe or unwilling to provide care, we have to find a new answer to face this destruction.
This is where my arms answered. This is where my husband and my children answered. This is where the Boyle family answered. Kaylie answered. Kacey answered. Ali and Anthony answered. The Weed family answered.
And Johana Doblado answered. We answered yes.
Foster families, adoptive families, child and family advocates all answer YES when a child’s first family is not, and cannot be, an option.
ROOM continues to be at the forefront of child and family advocacy in Honduras. We, alongside the Honduran government, make huge strides in shaping the framework of this system. This tremendous privilege is not lost on us. Every day more and more people understand the importance of having families stand in the gap. The psychological evidence supporting the emotional and physical development supported by family care over orphanage care is overwhelming.
However, accepted ways are difficult to change. The old model has always been to immediately place children in large, institution-style orphanages. New research and education takes time to accept. Unfortunately, time is not a luxury our children have today.
So, when children are unable to receive care through their biological family, ROOM provides family placement solutions through foster care (short-term foster families, long-term foster families and transition homes). Our agency recruits, trains, manages and supervises foster families to ensure children receive high-quality care in a loving family environment. In many cases, our foster families even seek out qualified adoption agencies to pursue saying a forever “yes” to the children in their care.
First we ask, “Is the child’s biological family an option?” If that answer is “no,” then we seek placement into one of ROOM’s foster families or transition homes, as appropriate.
ROOM’s vision started as an orphanage outreach ministry. ROOM is holding strong to that calling today. We want to support orphanages to be the best that they can be. The orphanages ROOM supports are characterized by loving caretakers, safe living environments and educational opportunities. In many cases, orphanages are the best possible placement for a child who is abandoned.
Unfortunately, many times orphanages have been viewed as the ONLY answer to the orphan crisis. This mindset has resulted in overcrowded, under-resourced homes. Lack of oversight and support means some orphanages are not functioning in the best interest of children. In some cases, children are even exploited to take advantage of generous folks wanting to help children. These bad examples are not the norm or the majority.
ROOM partners with many, many AMAZING orphanages!
The children’s homes we work with strive to be the answer when the biological family cannot be the answer AND when a foster family or adoptive family cannot be the answer.
ROOM’s desire is to come alongside homes demonstrating strong values and empower them to meet the needs of their children. What happens in those moments is beautiful; our ministries link arms to serve children to the fullest capacity in which we are all called.
We, as one tiny piece of the world’s huge orphan care ministry population, have only begun to sift through the ruble of the continual destruction we see on a daily basis. We understand, in part, that there is not one single answer to the world’s orphan crisis. When we look at the big picture, when we survey the landscape of destruction, it can be overwhelming. But, when we look at one child and we walk that one child through each step of prevention, solution, and orphanage care, we begin to make sense of this devastation one child at a time.
When we are asked, “What does ROOM do,” we can truly only answer: We show up. We roll up our sleeves and we start picking up one piece at a time. Some days the trauma weighs heavy on our souls and we can become overwhelmed by the scope of what is in front of us. Other days we rejoice when a family stays together; when a child placed in a foster family seeking adoption; when an orphanage playground finally assembled. The outcomes are often out of our control, but in the end, that’s what we do, we show up.
Visit www.makeroom.org to learn more about what ROOM’s ministry does.
To read detailed stories about children served through ROOM’s abandonment prevention, orphanage support and family placement solution initiatives, visit: https://becomepartofthestory.wordpress.com/
To make a donation to empower ROOM to SHOW UP where we are needed, please visit: http://www.makeroom.org/donate.php