After beginning life with abuse and neglect, an orphan must now find her way around an unfamiliar place, trying to learn the rules of survival.
Each class is different: some band together, becoming the next best thing to a family. Some form gangs and pick fights. Some caretakers are caring, some neglectful, some abusive.
As one orphan said:
“Orphanage life is different from family life, because kids who are at home feel loved and respected as people. I never felt any of that, all my childhood.”
Children in an orphanage may or may not get proper health care or nutrition. Children with minor physical deformities are often sent to separate orphanages with those who have severe handicaps, whether mental or physical; these are unlikely to get the help they need.
She may develop any number of harmful coping behaviors: fighting, drinking, offering sex in exchange for things she needs or wants.
Navigating orphanage life just to survive trumps her schoolwork. Abuse or neglect may have caused her to have learning disabilities, which will make her studies even more difficult. So as she continues through the grades at the orphanage, she will not be getting a good education.
Because of all the kids’ behaviors, her teachers must work hard just to maintain a semblance of order in the classroom; the focus is on survival rather than learning.
She won’t learn many practical skills, like how to work hard and how to take responsibility. She will learn little about how to communicate or form healthy relationships.
And underneath all the behaviors, all the survival mechanisms and the tough exterior, these are children who feel the pain of their parents’ rejection. There’s no one to help them turn around a negative self-concept.
Each one is a unique creation, valued by the living God. But many of them feel worthless. When orphans speaks about their parents, they sometimes say their parents “threw them away.”
By the time our kids are entering adolescence, they’ve learned a lot of survival skills, but may have learned little else; and they carry with them the incredible hurt of rejection and abandonment.