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When Helping Hurts Vulnerable Children

Drawing on best practices, the Alliance for Children Everywhere (ACE), with technical support from the Chalmers Center at Covenant College, has been piloting a Family Preservation and Empowerment Program (FPEP) that seeks to strengthen extremely poor families in Zambia. FPEP provides families with a monthly supply of emergency food relief and nutritional supplements, training in marketable skills, seed capital to launch micro enterprises, and savings groups to build capital and buffer shocks. In addition, FPEP teaches families about parenting skills and offers Christian discipleship. 

The results are encouraging. Of the 300 households in the FPEP pilot, over 80% broke out of acute levels of poverty, including Margret’s family. While life continues to be quite challenging for Margret, FPEP has enabled all seven children to be raised at home by their loving parents rather than the overworked staff of a Zambian orphanage. 

The world needs more stories like Margret’s. It will take decades for the world to move away from its over-reliance on institutional care, but U.S. Christians could dramatically speed up the process by redirecting their funds to the holistic strengthening of impoverished families and to transitioning orphanages to models of family-based care. 

The most vulnerable children in the world desperately need Christians’ helping to actually help.