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FIRST-PERSON: Demonizing orphans

LAKELAND, Fla. (BP)–Recently I sat startled as I watched a preview for an upcoming movie “Orphan.” This horror movie is a fictional account of a couple who lost their unborn child and then decided to adopt a nine-year-old girl named Esther.

Soon after arriving at their home Esther goes crazy and begins attacking other children and her parents for unexplained reasons. The tagline for the movie seen on the previews and on posters is, “There is something wrong with Esther.”

Granted, I’m not a fan of horror films, but this brief preview sickened me. My heart ached for any adopted children that may see this movie trailer. My concern is that adoptive children or children waiting to be adopted will face cruel jokes and ridicule from other children as a result of just seeing the previews. I shudder to think that families considering adoption will be negatively influenced by unfounded fears.

I haven’t seen the movie (which has yet to be released) and I don’t plan to. The preview alone is an affront to the dignity and respect due to orphans. I am not on a campaign against Hollywood, but I am on a campaign to advance the interests of orphaned children.

Some people may read this and say, “Relax, it’s only a movie.” Every day at the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes we see the tragedies of children that have been abandoned and abused. We see the faces of precious children that long for a loving forever family through adoption.

Consider that there are approximately 130,000 children in the United States waiting to be adopted, including 7,400 children in Florida. In addition, there are 133 million orphans worldwide.

Children come to the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes for a variety of reasons, but all of the reasons are tragic. People need to understand that orphaned children are victims. They are victims of parents who have neglected them, abused them, or simply cannot care for them.

The children that are placed in our care face many challenges. Many of them, when they come to us, are behind in school, have limited social skills, and have deep feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. As ridiculous as it may seem, many children feel responsible for the tragedy of their situation, further compounding their feelings of guilt and shame.

Our highly trained staff work very hard through proper care and counseling to help all of our children with their challenges. However, it is the grace of God working through our staff that truly changes and restores these children. God changes lives, and I am in the fortunate position to be able to witness this on a regular basis.

As Christians we should all see it as our duty to help “look after orphans” (James 1:27) and to “defend the cause of the fatherless” (Isaiah 1:17). Consider the different ways that people can serve God through the ministry of caring for abused, neglected and orphaned children:

1) Become an adoptive parent, especially to an older child or a sibling group.

2) Become a foster parent as we need many more Christian foster homes.

3) Volunteer at one of the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes’ campus locations, or at a children’s home in your area.

3) Support children’s homes financially and with your prayers.

4) Go with us to make a difference in the life of an orphan internationally.

Let us all rise up as the body of believers to provide loving care and support to orphans in whatever capacity God has enabled us. In this way we will truly be defending orphans from those that simply choose to exploit them for box office profits.
Jerry T. Haag is president of Florida Baptist Children’s Homes.

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  • Jerry T. Haag