ICYMI: UN General Assembly Makes Landmark Decision for Children; Prioritizes Family Preservation Just in Time for Christmas

December 20, 2019

Grand Rapids, Michigan — This week, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) made a historic decision in support of vulnerable children around the world, voting unanimously to work toward ending orphanage care around the world in the latest update to the UN Resolution on the Rights of the Child. Bethany Christian Services, a global nonprofit that has supported vulnerable children for more than 75 years, was one of more than 250 organizations to endorse the resolution.

Each year, the UNGA meets to make decisions that will affect the lives of people around the world. The resolutions adopted at this meeting recommend a course of action for all United Nations Member States on a wide array of issue areas including human rights, education, development, climate, violence against children, peace and security, and more.

On December 18, 2019 the topic of children without parental care was discussed for the first time ever, and full consensus was reached to update the Resolution on the Rights of the Child. This decision sets the tone for the immediate and long-term future of global child welfare, formally recognizes the negative impact of institutionalized care on children, and, lastly, mandates family reunification or high-quality alternative care if reunification is impossible or unsafe.

“This moment will be looked back on as a milestone for global child welfare,” said Kristi Gleason, vice president of global services at Bethany Christian Services. “Here in the U.S., we would never consider an orphanage as an acceptable setting of care for children who can’t be with their families. But worldwide, that’s often still the case. Children need the kind of nurturing love of families not the four walls of orphanages. The very presence of orphanages discourage family preservation or reunification.”

The resolution also recognizes that most children in orphanages are not orphans, but many have loving parents who for one reason or another could not personally provide care.

Over the past decade, Bethany Christian Services invested in programs around the world that strengthen families and communities. Like other global child welfare experts, Bethany has held deep concerns about the long-term effects of institutionalized care on children. Bethany president and CEO Chris Palusky and Gleason have called on churches and other missional organizations to consider where they are directing their funds and volunteers globally and urging many to consider outreach with long-term benefits on the local community.

“Having the global community aligned with our mission – empowering families to stay together – in this way is groundbreaking,” said Palusky. “As an organization we are actively working to, keep families together and to keep kids out of institutional care and reunited with family. With this decision from UN member nations, I have renewed hope in just how much change is possible in 2020, and I am overjoyed to think of the thousands of children who will benefit from it.”

In the U.S., Bethany already offers a number of high-quality alternative care options, including transitional foster care, a temporary program for unaccompanied minors to live with a loving family while Bethany staff find their relatives., and Safe Families For Children, an emergency care program that surrounds a struggling family with compassionate caring community including temporary childcare among other supportive measures until the family can get back on their feet.

“We already have a blueprint for what works,” continued Gleason. “And in countries like Ethiopia and Haiti, we’ve already worked with their local community and government to help pilot their first-ever foster care system. Real change is possible, and the kids aren’t the only ones that will feel its affects – these communities will forever be changed for the better too.”

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About Bethany Bethany is a global nonprofit that supports children and families with world-class social services, all designed to help families thrive. Over 75 years ago, we began our work by serving a single child. Today, we work in more than 30 states and more than a dozen countries worldwide, serving more than 50,000 people every year.