Spending Good time with orphaned kids
July 7, 2007 8:50 PM   Subscribe

I live in bay area, california. I am an immigrant working on H1B visa/work permit. I am married and no kids. We are in our mid 30's. We want to spend some time with kids who are orphans, by taking them out during weekends and keep them/us happy. We just want to show love/hope towards them. Can someone suggest what are the options, so that we can take them out during the weekends... Should i approach a foster care center ?
posted by tom123 to Society & Culture (15 answers total)
Big Brothers / Big Sisters is probably the organization for you. Those kids aren't orphans per se, but they are kids in need.

Is there a specific reason that you're looking for orphans specifically? What are you trying to get out of helping?
posted by k8t at 8:53 PM on July 7, 2007

America doesn't have orphanages. Orphans live in foster homes, and probably wouldn't be accessible to you. I agree that "Big Brothers / Big Sisters" is the best choice for what you're trying to do.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:00 PM on July 7, 2007

Response by poster: The reason, for helping, is we just want to give something back to society, satisfaction that we are useful to this
society, that we can influence someone's life positively...

Being immigrants, we are feeling quite lonely here and we are trying to have children, but so far not lucky....
posted by tom123 at 9:04 PM on July 7, 2007

Volunteering/mentoring is great. However, it is not going to substitute for a child of your own to raise. Going into a mentoring situation wanting to get that sort of love/feeling out of it is a path to disaster.

Why not get a pet?
posted by k8t at 9:08 PM on July 7, 2007

It sounds like BB/BS isn't for you after all. They would want you to make an emotional commitment to stay involved with the kid. It's for the kids, not for you; it isn't supposed to be something you do for a few months and then stop doing.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:13 PM on July 7, 2007

What you probably want to do is find a youth program that fits with you and your spouse's interest area and volunteer with that program. Maybe a website like this one, Hands on Bay Area will have something that will work for you. I agree that Big Brothers-Big Sisters, from what I hear, might give you the most freedom. But, maybe there is a great opportunity to work with kids on the weekends that is just down the street from you!
posted by fieldtrip at 9:15 PM on July 7, 2007

Here are some VolunteerMatch listings that might interest you.
posted by lemuria at 9:25 PM on July 7, 2007

They would want you to make an emotional commitment to stay involved with the kid. It's for the kids, not for you; it isn't supposed to be something you do for a few months and then stop doing.

I have some experience here, and you're half right on this point. They would like you to stick around for a significant chunk of time, but it is not a requirement. If you are clear and upfront about your level of commitment, they will attempt to accommodate the situation by matching you appropriately with kids.

At the very least, go talk to BB/BS and learn more.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:30 PM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

The other option is to spend time with kids in short term need. Volunteering for kids programs at a local hospital. For example, the San Francisco Children's Hospital has a volunteer program but many hospitals who serve families have need of volunteers.

Do you have any special talents or skills? Perhaps you can sing or play an instrument or if you are good at reading aloud or if you can organize games or draw or...the needs are endless. Boys and Girls Club of SF, a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter might let you volunteer to entertain the kids so that their parent(s) can take a break or get some other services, local library, local veteran support organization might be looking for people to help military spouses on weekends with childcare if one half of the couple is overseas, etc.

Unfortunately, orphanages and the need for them still do exist in the world. These days, they are more often called "children's homes". Many of these (such as Stockton in CA) are home to kids who are victims of abuse or have emotional problems that make them hard to place in foster homes.

I'll be honest. If you are looking for kids who will make you happy in order for you to like volunteering, then volunteering might not be for you. Volunteering with kids can be fun and rewarding. It can also be emotionally messy, hard work and exhausting.

If you are looking for an experience where you are enjoying a child but don't think that you are emotionally able to the self-sacrifice needed for older kids, perhaps there is a program near you (ask at a hospital) that will let you rock and hold new babies. I was a volunteer who went through a rotation in a neonatal care unit and was asked to hold and interact with babies whose mothers were unable to tend to them for specific reasons. (Babies born to drug-addicted moms, new moms with disabilities or who were recovering from health complications sometimes fell into this category.)

Best of luck to you.
posted by jeanmari at 9:50 PM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

A little clarification. Most of the kids in foster care are not technically orphans. Typically they've been removed from an abusive/neglectuful home. By law, social services first has to work with the parents (anywhere for 6 mos to a couple years) to find a way for the family to be reunited. For those foster kids whose families have failed reunification efforts, they're either waiting to be adopted or waiting to "age out" of the foster system as adults.

As far as I know, there aren't "foster care centers". There are foster family homes, which -- being regular people's homes -- don't have volunteer programs. Then there are foster group homes, which is the closest modern equivalent to orphanages: bunches of kids living in some kind of dormitory-like setting, supervised by organization staff. Some are cold, clinical places, and some try very hard to provide a family-ish lifestyle within a more structure environment. Typically these are kids who've been deemed unsuitable to a foster family placement. For instance, having special needs that are more than an ordinary couple can handle. There's a lot of screening, training, and clearances required by law to work/volunteer in a group home, so it's not all that common for one to have a volunteer program. If you're in the North Bay, I do know The Children's Village actively recruits volunteers to take their kids on various group activities.

Despite this seeming lack of interest, mentors/friends for kids in foster group homes are much MUCH needed, if that is indeed the kind of child you meant. Being a CASA was one of the best, and hardest, experiences of my life. My "CASA kid" also had a Best Buddy whose involvement was more superficial but at least equally meaningful in the child's eyes. The biggest difference is that the CASA has access to all the people in the child's life, and all the records, and gets a chance to speak for the child in court. The CASA has some opportunity to affect the big picture. Whereas a Best Buddy is more of a casual acquaintance, kept at arm's length from everything else going on in the child's life. Ideally, every eligible child would get one of each*. In reality, only a small fraction get either.

I really want to emphasize what k8t said. Volunteering with these kids is a great idea. But do not even consider doing it out of loneliness. These are all children who've already experienced major loss, usually repeated losses. Loss of their parents, who they loved in spite of all reason. Loss of their siblings, in what seems to their young minds like a punishment. Loss of usually a couple foster families before landing in the group home. Loss of whatever friendships they managed to forge at each of those waypoints. Loss of childhood. Loss of ****ing innocence... The last thing they need is anyone regarding them as a temporary project or as second prize. So look into your heart. If you're committed to putting a damaged child's needs before yours, for a least a year or two, then go for it. It's a wonderful gift to give.

(Note that Best Buddies provides volunteer mentors to a demographic that coincidentally overlaps with that of many foster group home residents. So you'd need to request foster match.)
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:13 PM on July 7, 2007 [2 favorites]

Find out if there are respite care positions, spending time with kids, sometimes difficult kids, so their foster parent(s) can have a break.
posted by theora55 at 10:21 PM on July 7, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for your inputs/suggestions. Appreciate your time.
posted by tom123 at 12:27 PM on July 8, 2007

Being immigrants, we are feeling quite lonely here and we are trying to have children, but so far not lucky....

Have both of you considered adopting a child? Talk about rewarding! I have two girls. It was the best thing my wife and I have ever done.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 10:10 AM on July 9, 2007

Please, please, PLEASE do not get involved with a child in foster care if you are not planning to make a long term commitment. These kids have already been abandoned enough in their lives. If you're not planning to stick around for longer than a few months, don't drop into their lives and then abandon them again. Don't become just another adult who drops into their lives, hangs out for a little while, and disappears. These kids have had enough disappointment, and they don't need any more. If you're not prepared to make a long-term commitment, please don't volunteer.
posted by decathecting at 10:12 AM on July 9, 2007

Response by poster: Hello everyone,

To all who are concerned, i will go as per your
advice/suggestion, taking into consideration, the wellbeing
of the kid....

Pl. rest assured, i will not make life difficult for them......

posted by tom123 at 11:22 AM on July 9, 2007

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