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Best Practices in Orphan Care

Our Adventures team cares for over 6,000 orphans daily. For a while now, I’ve wanted to help them do a better job. What if we equipped caregivers to upgrade the quality of care they give? I had this idea: If we could train caregivers (maybe racers too?) to conduct an audit or review of the …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Our Adventures team cares for over 6,000 orphans daily. For a while now, I’ve wanted to help them do a better job. What if we equipped caregivers to upgrade the quality of care they give?

I had this idea:

If we could train caregivers (maybe racers too?) to conduct an audit or review of the best practices of the orphanages in which they serve, then they could take that information and help those orphanages improve.

I looked high and low, but I couldn’t find such an audit. So I drafted the one below. Please let me know what you think of it.


Evaluate each of the following on a scale of 1-5 where 1=Unacceptable and 5=Excellent

    ______Nutritional quality of food
    ______Adequate supply of food
    ______Food tastes good
    ______Three meals a day
    ______Clean water

    ______Clear rules
    ______Children understand rules
    ______Staff trained in basics of discipline
    ______Standards established
    ______Balance with love
    ______No abuse

    ______Face-to-face conversation
    ______Mom and dad figures exist/attachment is critical
    ______Adequate adult presence
    ______Children say, “I feel special. I’m loved.”

    ______ Children say, “I belong. My siblings love me.”
    ______Pervasive sense of close family
    ______Relationships outside orphanage
    ______Children play well & play often
    ______Conversations cultivated
    ______Community cultivated
    ______Local church relationship

Health Care
    ______Access to clinics/Limited sickness
    ______Access to clean toilets
    ______Access to baths/showers
    ______Sanitary facilities
    ______Adequate immunizations

    ______Available for all ages
    ______Children educated to grade-level

Daily personal care
    ______Potty training
    ______Daily cleaning – showers& teeth brushed
    ______Weekly cleaning – lice check & bedbugs
    ______Hair combed & regular hair cuts
    ______Learning self-care
    ______Daily physical fitness


    ______School clothes

    ______Bible study
    ______Regular worship
    ______Missions opportunities

    ______Atmosphere in orphanage
    ______Claustrophobia factor
    ______Positivity of staff
    ______Play areas
    ______Children able to leave premises daily
    ______Access to nature

    ______Cash flow
    ______Multiple sources

    ______Accounting books

    ______Maturity of staff
    ______Ratio of kids/staff
    ______Staff receive adequate pay

    ______Leaders have raised children successfully
    ______Leaders have a plan
    ______Desire to grow

    ______All children receive counseling
    ______Staff receive counseling
    ______Follow-up for all

    ______All children have a transition plan
    ______Percentage of children who transition to sustainabililty
    ______Children are discipled after leaving
    ______Adequate resources available
    ______Record-keeping shows progress of each graduate

    _____All children have birth certificates on file

Comments (20)

  • I think you have hit on this with some of the questions, but I think it would be important to get a closer closer look at whether the children have adequate opportunities to attach to one or two adults who will remain in their lives at an orphanage or until a permanent family option exists for the child. From our research and learning in the adoption process, this factor alone allows children to have greater relational success in the long run than many others.

  • This is incredible!! Such a helpful assessment for someone like myself who hopes to have children’s homes one day.

  • Rachel, glad you liked it. I’m optimistic that it will be useful. I intend to train racers to use it and help the orphanages they visit.

  • I really like this idea! I am going to show this to my dad as we are in the process of developing a ranch for foster children in Colorado and I think this can apply. Becky, I really liked your comment too!

    One thing I thought might be good is to add to either the daily personal care section or the medical section is rating if there is a regular routine for managing and eliminating lice and bed bugs. This was something we faced in almost every orphanage sometimes because of lack of consistent attention or because of the lack of effective tools. When the kids have to constantly live with lice we are teaching them that this is the normal to be infested instead of teaching them healthy habits.

  • Good idea, Rachel. I was looking for this kind of feedback. I will incorporate it into the document. Thanks!

  • It would be wonderful to see a summary result of the orphanages that are audited with their names left out of course to help us all learn what are the best practices to learn from and what the trends are that we are going away from.

  • You just keep coming up w/ great ideas! We’ll need help to activate them. Let me know if you want to help us with this project in the future…

  • Have a look at http://UnitingforChildren.org if interested. We’re working on collecting stories and encouraging developments around the world all in the area of best practices. Mostly focused on moving away from orphanages, though you’ll find a great article by Kelsey Nielsen about how she is working with some orphanages that are willing to reunite children and families.

    Honestly, the thing missing from the list above that sticks out strongly to me is any type of family reunification or prevention program. I’d like to see every orphanage working hard to prevent children from having to enter, and when they do, trying their best to get them back in families before it’s too late. That takes a social worker, probably, and a real, practical commitment not to put the institutions interests over the child’s (which is easier said than done).

  • You may want to look into Whole Child International (http://www.wholechild.org/en/). They have worked with several governments and universities to develop a free app for assessing quality of care in residential care centers/”orphanages”/children’s homes. Beyond simply evaluating the care, they also offer free suggestions for improvements. Its a wonderful tool for those doing group care.

  • It sounds great,and fortunately it is likely the same idea I am running after. I am an orphan and dream to give these little angels future.

    thank you so much

  • I am glad to read through this article. it’s very useful both for research and self assessment of Orphanages by themselves.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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