The Oak Life Journal
Jul | Aug 2022
From the Editor
"Throwing Out the Baby"
By Cameron Talbot • 4 min read
I love the idiom, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” The image is at once comical as it is shocking. It draws its meaning by painting a ridiculous story. A babe has been freshly bathed, and as the guardian goes to toss the dirty water outside, they throw out the baby as well!
Yes, throw out what’s dirty. But don’t get too excited—remember to safeguard the central concern before you violently discard the waste.
Who in their right mind would throw out the baby?
Keep what’s precious.
This edition of The Oak Life Journal surrounds an issue that I take very personally—The world is shifting away from large orphanages.
Before I offer my opinion, though, let’s layer the issue with our idiom.
The “bathed baby” in this scenario is the alternative care we offer children. It’s the compassion that drives you to rescue street children. It’s the methods your home uses to safeguard the vulnerable. It’s your precious calling: the one that binds us all together. It’s our mission.
Those of us who work in orphan care are the bathers. It’s our job to keep the mission clean, provide the best care, seek out the best methods, the safest routes, and the most effective way of loving at-risk children.
And so, the world of orphan care is washing its baby.
The dirt being washed away?
Studies show that large, residential orphanages can do incredible harm to the children they serve. This is especially true for homes that do not operate with trauma-informed methods, or whose staff is ill-prepared to strive for loving connections with the children. Homes with caregiver-to-child ratios of 1 to 10 or higher show drastic declines in the psychosocial and physiological development of their children.
The very thing intended to safeguard the children, is the thing that is harming them.
It has to be cleaned. The methods have to be bathed. Orphan care has to be reborn into something new.
I believe all of this, and I believe there are real changes that good orphanages can make to mitigate the dangers of residential life, help heal their children from past traumas, and give them a bright future. Some of those potential changes are discussed in our article entitled, “The World Shifts Away from Large Orphanages.”
In too many cases, though, the baby is being thrown out with the bath water.
Advocates have begun crusading against orphanages altogether, forgetting the immediate needs those homes are fulfilling. Some well-intentioned organizations actually work to defund orphanages. The mob has found its next high-selling headline masquerading as “compassion,” and it goes with the banner, “All orphanages are evil!” Snappy! Exciting! What revolutionaries.
And people are falling for it.
We bring this up so that you might be aware. As the years ahead continue to bring great, cleansing baths to our mission, those of us on the frontlines must be prepared for the baptism. At the end of the day, good shelters want what’s best for the children, even if that means making changes.
But frontliners who face the dark truths of the world also know that orphanages, in some form or method, will be necessary for many years to come.
And so we encourage you! Do what you do best. Love your children well. Stay ahead of the conversation by making evidence-based reforms. Connect with others and share what works and doesn’t work for you.
Together, we will keep what’s precious.