Polish Social Orphans

The Polish orphan system was initially aimed at war orphans. Over the decades since the Second World War the proportion of parentless orphans sank, until today when only about 4% of the children in the Polish Children’s Home system have lost both parents. The term “orphan” has changed to also include “social orphans.”

Social orphans are children who are wards of the state. They have at least one living parent, but are raised in institution like forms and not in a foster home. Their contact with their families is often sporadic and infrequent. When the parents do visit the orphanage the contact is not natural, and cannot meet the emotional and psychological needs of these disadvantaged children. It is like visiting an institution.

The children come from a variety of backgrounds. Some have been rejected or abandoned by their parents; others have been abused and mistreated by their parents, or neglected. Mostly they are from dysfunctional families. To be a natural (parentless) orphan is traumatic, but there can be closure. Their parents are not to blame for them being in an institution. With the social orphans the trauma can be far worse. Their parents are alive and do not care.

An alcoholic parent can go to therapy. A single parent, after a divorce, can struggle together with their child, to get the child back home, showing the child that s/he has worth. The child in the Children’s Home suffers daily, knowing the parent could get them out of their situation.

In the case of mental illness, the question is if it is not more cost effective for the state to treat the cause, with effective treatments, instead of institutionalizing the “problems.” This is not criticism of Poland specifically, as other countries also have myopic economic principles. With elections every 4 years and budget fixation on the next year, investing in the future, 10 to 20 years from now, does not enter a politicians mind.

90% of adults who were raised in the Children’s Home system struggle in life. 60% of Poland’s homeless have been raised in these orphanages. More than 90% have difficulties with relationships in their adult lives.

Research over long-term has show that social skills and emotional stability are more important in adult life than top marks at school. These qualities cannot be taught cognitively in a classroom environment. They are learned intuitively through experience in a family environment.

Poverty is a different situation. If the home was warm and had a loving atmosphere, the child suffers being institutionalized, but can still have a warm relationship with the parents. Once again investing in the parents can save society future expenses.

It is not uncommon for these children to have parents who themselves grew up in a Children’s Home. This is a cycle and the cycle must be broken.

The way out of this cycle is to change the system and encourage foster families where the children can feel love, security, stability, and emotional warmth.

Disclaimer: What is written above is not a critique of the staff in the Polish Children's Home system, but with the system itself. The fault lies with politicians who do not give the resources these homes need. Most of the carers are doing the best they can with the limited resources they have available and there are many true heros among them, doing what is in their power to help the children under their care, despite being understaffed.

Agape Trust needs support to be able to help those social orphans we are in contact with.

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