Millions of Christians, Muslims and members of other faith communities who want to make a difference travel on international short-term mission trips every year, most often to countries that are in development.
Missions for orphans
Many traveling to visit or volunteer in children’s residential care centers, often referred to as orphanages and children’s homes, are motivated by a desire to care for orphaned children.
Whilst good intentions underlie the increasing trend of short-term mission trips to residential care centers, there are significant concerns about the effect this has on vulnerable children and how it contributes to sustaining the residential model of care over family care.
Use of residential care institutions
Up to 8 million children around the world are living in residential care centers. A large proportion of these children have at least one living parent who, with some support, could care for them.
Children are living in residential care centers for many reasons. Research shows that poverty, not lack of caregivers, is a primary cause for placing children in residential care centers. Parents and other caregivers struggling to provide for their children may feel compelled to use a residential care center to meet their children’s basic needs. Other causes include abuse and neglect, disability (either children or parents), natural disaster, or conflict.
Ending Family Separation
Scripture, social science, and international guidance all agree the best environment in which to raise a child is a healthy, loving family. A family provides the love, nurture, stability, protection, and care that are integral to the healthy development of a child. There is a growing movement among international and national policymakers, missions agencies, and nongovernmental organizations who are shifting away from the overreliance on residential care centers toward increasing family-based models of care.
Are you planning a short-term mission trip?
If you are planning a short-term mission trip, please read the guidance that has been developed by our faith-based partner organisations on how to avoid potential harm and ensure positive outcomes for vulnerable children, their families, and their communities.
- Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO)
- Catholic Relief Service (CRS)
- Faith to Action
- SOE (Standards of Excellence in Short-term Mission)