FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Contact: Heather Douglass

Christian Child-Focused Organizations Urge International Leaders to Invest In Family Strengthening In Response to New COVID Orphans Report

SAN FRANCISCO — The Faith to Action Initiative and members of its coalition today urged individuals, churches, and international leaders to support family and community strengthening efforts in response to the latest global child welfare report from The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal, “More than 5.2 Million Children Affected by Global Surges in COVID-Associated Orphanhood and Caregiver Death.”

The new report reveals that an estimated 5.2 million children worldwide have lost a primary or secondary caregiver due to COVID-19. In addition to navigating the loss of a caregiver, children affected by COVID-19-associated orphanhood and their families are at an increased risk of poverty, violence, mental health struggles, and lack of access to education.

“In times of crisis, those of us who want to help must remember that all children belong in families. We need to respond to the millions of children who are grieving the loss of a loved one while also being intentional to avoid anything that might separate that child from their living family members,” said Elli Oswald, Executive Director of the Faith to Action Initiative. “During past crises, support for residential care facilities, like orphanages and children’s homes, has been a first response for Christians, but this is a short-sighted and often inappropriate solution. Today the church has an opportunity to respond in a way that will initiate positive, lasting change. By supporting family strengthening efforts, Christians will not only aid vulnerable children right now, but they will help position these children to receive a lifetime of the support and love they deserve.”

“The loss of a parent for any child is traumatic and often leads to lifelong challenges. Yet, when supported in a safe and loving family, even children who have faced such hardship can thrive,” said Karmen Friesen, Principal Coordinator for World Without Orphans. “With millions of children losing a parent due to COVID, there is an urgent need to provide support to these children and their families to keep them in a place where they can be loved and find hope. And in most communities, it is churches that are ideally placed to provide the wrap-around support that families in crisis urgently need.”

“At Bethany Christian Services, we believe that family changes everything. There are now 5.2 million children in our world who experienced the loss of a caregiver due to the COVID-19 pandemic–a number that will only keep growing. To address this staggering crisis, the Church can and must be part of the solution,” said Chris Palusky, President and CEO of Bethany Christian Services. “Rather than funding orphanages, Christians in every community can tangibly be the hands and feet of Jesus for millions of children by supporting efforts that strengthen families facing loss and adversity. The U.S. government can lead the way by investing in the protection of children who lost parents and caregivers because of COVID-19. When we work together, more children can be in the safe, loving home they deserve.”

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of children who have lost a caregiver has been doubling every six months. These reported 5.2 million children–including those who still have living relatives–are not only facing the trauma of caregiver loss, but are also facing adversity due to extreme poverty, violence, and mental health challenges brought on by the pandemic,” said Jenny Yang, Vice President for Advocacy and Policy at World Relief. “The Church’s immediate support of family-strengthening efforts is critical to ensuring our world’s most vulnerable remain in safe, loving homes with their own families whenever possible.”

“COVID-19 and our response to it have torn families and isolated people like nothing in all history. As in any crisis, children are among the hardest hit. Whatever else is needed for repair, a vision for supporting strong, healthy family life must be central in both public policy and private action,” said Jedd Medefind, President of Christian Alliance for Orphans.

“We call on the global community to provide support to the families of children who have lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19, as so many have in the countries where we work,” said Anne Smith, Director of Changing the Way We Care, an initiative of Catholic Relief Services and Maestral International.

“COVID-19 has dramatically increased the vulnerability of the world’s children,” said Lisa Bos, Senior Director of Government Relations at World Vision US. “Every six seconds another child loses a parent or caregiver due to COVID-19. While the majority of these children have living caregivers and family who are willing to care for them, the stresses placed upon them are immense. As Christians we believe that a loving family is the best place for a child to grow, learn, and reach their God-given potential. As we did during the HIV/AIDS epidemic, World Vision seeks to be a leader in a global response to support families ensuring that children can remain with their loving caregivers, but we also need government leaders to prioritize children and address issues like caregiver loss in their COVID response.”

Contributors to the report include: researchers from the CDC COVID-19 Response Team, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA), Imperial College London (UK), University of Oxford (UK), University of  Copenhagen (Denmark); University of Kwa- Zulu Natal (South Africa), University of Cape Town (South Africa), World Health Organization, University College London (UK); Maestral International, Office of Global HIV/AIDS, U.S. Agency for International Development (USA); World Without Orphans, World Bank Group, Harvard Medical School (USA) and Boston Children’s Hospital (USA).

 

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About Faith to Action Initiative

The mission of the Faith To Action Initiative is to mobilize and educate Christian churches, faith-based organizations, and individuals to engage in care that upholds the vital importance of family in a child’s life, as opposed to institutions such as orphanages. The Faith to Action Initiative is a coalition of organizations, including World Vision, Christian Alliance for Orphans, Bethany Christian Services, World Without Orphans, Catholic Relief Services and their initiative Changing the Way We Care.