In Myanmar, status amongst local Christian pastors is strongly linked to achieving the trifecta of running a church, Bible school, and orphanage. Many pastors recruit children from families in impoverished ethnic minority communities into their orphanages for the purpose of seeking overseas donations to partially fund their other ministries. Others believe that placing children in their orphanages guarantees the best outcomes for their education, future livelihood, and spirituality, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
In either case, families that could be supported to care for their own children are instead pressured to send their children to live in orphanages thousands of kilometers away in Yangon. Separated from their families, communities, language, and culture, many children fail to thrive in the orphanage environment where their needs cannot be met, and they are often subject to neglect, abuse, and in the worst cases, trafficking.
In response, ACCIR established Kinnected Myanmar in 2015 to identify orphanage directors and their key donors who might be open to transitioning out of the orphanage model into family and community based care. The project has four main components:
1. A working group for orphanage directors aiming to help them understand the harmful effects of orphanage care, and to see that God designed for children to be raised in families;
2. A working group for donors designed to create a peer environment for orphanage supporters as they navigate the complex transition process away from orphanage care;
3. A technical unit of qualified and experienced social workers that work alongside the orphanage directors to facilitate the reintegration of children into their families; and
4. A community of practice for orphanage directors that have successfully moved away from orphanage care and are now working on community development and advocacy initiatives to prevent more children from entering orphanage care
Now registered as a local non-governmental organization, Kinnected Myanmar works with multiple orphanages to reconnect children with their families, and reintegrates them through robust social work processes that focus on ensuring that they are safe and sustainably supported.