A Model For Orphan Care
The Selamta Family Project started after Carol Stone’s daughter Meron Foster, who was adopted from Ethiopia, started telling her about the horrors of life for the country’s orphans.
In Ethiopia, orphan is a legal term that refers to anyone whose parents died of HIV/AIDS, said Stone, of Lyme, who founded Selamta. Many live in overcrowded orphanages, but many also live on the street.
Plans for Selamta, which is a licensed NGO, or non-government organization, started in 2003. Selamta, which is Amharic for “be at peace,” accepted its first children in January 2006.
Now, the organization is responsible for a family of 129 children, 22 “mothers” who care for them and a handful of staff members in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.
While Selamta would like to expand and establish another branch of its Ethiopian family, it has bigger plans that could improve life for orphaned children worldwide.
“What we’ve been trying to do is create a model that will change orphan care,” said Stone. This is no small matter. There is a global orphan crisis. While Ethiopia’s orphan population hovers around 5 million, other countries are in straits still more dire. India has an estimated 25 million orphans, Stone said.
Only a relative handful of children are adopted each year, and most of the adoptees are among the youngest children.
A three-year longitudinal study just getting under way will determine whether the Selamta model provides better outcomes than orphanages.
“If we can prove that our interventions will change the lives of these children, then we’re going to write program manuals and just give them away,” Stone said.
— Alex Hanson