Words Matter

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

In my next few posts, I’m going to pose questions on the appropriateness of certain words or phrases. I’m not settled in my own views on these and I would like your responses to help inform my views.

In some conversations, I hear children in foster care in the U.S. referred to as America’s orphans.

Do you think the word “orphan” is appropriate in this context?


skycop said...


Various groups use different definitions to identify orphans.

One legal definition used in the United States is a minor bereft through "death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents".[5]

In the common use, an orphan does not have any surviving parent to care for him or her. However, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), and other groups label any child that has lost one parent as an orphan. In this approach, a maternal orphan is a child whose mother has died, a paternal orphan is a child whose father has died, and a double orphan has lost both parents.[6] This contrasts with the older use of half-orphan to describe children that had lost only one parent.[7]

This is from here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orphan

So maybe the phrase "Abandoned" Would be more appropriate. Abandoned is what has been done; so why not use it instead of orphaned, which apparently dates back to the late 1800's or early 20th century. Maybe if Abandoned were used more often, people would realize what they are doing is wrong and inappropriate. There are too many programs today to help single parents and allow them to keep their children. Unless of course the parent lacks the proper skills to care for her child; in which case you teach them and not simply remove the problem. My two cents.

Cassie Bayack said...

I think it is an appropriate word because it is truthful description about a person's situation at one point in their life. However if the parents think it is a degrading term, maybe they need to talk about it in a way that communicates esteem for their child, that they are comfortable with. However, to be afraid to talk about their adoption and the joy of it would be a concern, I think. I see adoption as a very glorious display of God's particular love to a person created in His image.

Orphans are very common. Many people who were never in orphanages or foster care are still orphans in that their parents died or perhaps remarried and rejected the children. Orphan is a bad word if there is no hope for something different. There might be the temptation to think there is nothing else in this world for them, or will ever be loved. But this is not true.

And some of us struggle with class issues. (I have noticed subtle thoughts and doubts like that from my upbringing.) They think that a person born a certain way can never get out of that class so we have to deny their birth situation.

I have a Biblical Worldview and I see how God changes our situations where we are born, or, a tragedy may happen or rejection. And to me, it is ALL His doing. I see it as rain coming down from heaven, the love God puts on people's hearts, according to His sovereignty. So, once an orphan, he or she now lives almost like royalty. And the motherless has a home full of children and there is joy (got this from Psalm 113).

I love the story of Joseph, how tragedy happens in his life, but there is a greater purpose that no one could see until it unfolded. Joseph trusted. Joseph is honored throughout eternity for what God did in his life but there were some difficult times for him.

I read this the other day (Psalm 113):

The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens!
5 Who is like the Lord our God,
who is seated on high,
6 who looks far down
on the heavens and the earth?
7 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
8 to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
9 He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord

I don't always remind my son he was an orphan, but I am not afraid to talk about it because it is part of God's glorious plan for him and his parents. He did struggle with why did they reject me? But I have to come in quickly with Biblical understanding. I don't think he'd be as well-adjusted without our Biblical mindset and truth that comes from Scripture.

So, "orphan" is just a term to describe a situation that is not permanent.

John 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."

Jessica said...

To my knowledge, most children who are placed on foster care do have a living bio parent to care from them. For various reasons, the state intervened and terminated parental rights. It's more like forced orphan situation. We adopted through Gladney ABC program and have an open adoption an birth mom. We did not know birth dad. I have never considered my daughter to be an orphan at any point in her life. I think our views of the definition of orphans have been shaped by the media (movie Annie) and by the international community. That said I do think that adoptions that take place internationally are seen more as saving or rescuing the child from a bad situation vs. when you adopt through the foster system, people wonder why one went that route and didn't adopt a baby domestically. These are just my impressions as an adoptive parent with friends who have adopted internationally, domestically and foster to adopt.

Frank said...

Thanks to each of you for taking the time and effort to provide such thoughtful and thought-provoking responses. As I hoped, these do help inform my own views.