Sadly, most of these children are not orphans; 80% have one or two living parents who, due to extreme poverty and limited resources, are forced to make the heart-breaking decision to abandon their children.
Without a family support system, abandoned children bear unimaginable suffering. The trauma and poverty-related stress children experience before and during institutionalized care can have lasting health and developmental consequences. Additionally, orphans who age out of the system are vulnerable to exploitation, drug use, gang involvement, abuse, child trafficking, sex trafficking, and prostitution. These risk factors, combined with limited access to educational opportunities, chronic malnutrition, and poor access to health care, further perpetuate a vicious cycle of poverty.
This is why HRI not only works with single mothers to prevent children from being abandoned into orphanages, but we also work with orphanages to improve the quality of care as well as provide life-skills and micro-enterprise trainings to youth in orphanages who will soon be aging-out.
Launched in 2017, Children First is a whole-family, multi-pronged approach to protecting Haiti’s most vulnerable children. In 2020, we expanded this program to Guatemala. Through targeted parent-child interventions, this program works to keep families together, protect children from harm, and build strong parent-child relationships through a host of support services. In addition, the program ensures that children become enrolled in school, eat a nutritious meal each day, engage in afterschool activities and receive academic assistance. HRI also hosts a 3-week long summer camp for 100-200 children each summer. By providing families with the support they need to sustainably overcome poverty-related stress factors, children have a better chance to reach their full potential and thrive.
HRI has prevented the abandonment of more than 500 children through Children First alone.