In this The Dallas Morning News contributing article, Buckner President and CEO Dr. Albert Reyes shares insight on the adverse effects of separating children from their families, a practice we have learned throughout our progression from institutionalized orphanages dating back to 1879 into the family-focused foster care and adoption system that we know today.
I wish the organization I lead didn't exist.
That may sound strange to you, but Buckner International was founded in 1879 as Buckner Orphans Home to care for orphans in post-Civil War Texas. For the past 139 years, we have cared for the most vulnerable children imaginable.
Last year, more than 1,100 Texas foster children lived with us. We also have foster care programs in six other countries. These children come to Buckner because of separation. They are separated from their biological families for a variety of reasons; the primary reasons are abuse, neglect and abandonment.
For decades, organizations like Buckner ran orphanages, places to house and care for children separated from their parents.
As one alumna from the 1930s and '40s wrote in a book chronicling life at the orphans home, "We came because our homes and families had been destroyed by overwhelming disasters: illness, desertion or deaths that left us helpless. We found food and shelter, an education, faith in God, friends, and above all, stability. It was as if a hand reached down, plucked us from dire circumstances and carried us away."
If you ask the children who grew up during the days of large, institutional orphanages, most will tell you that if they'd had a choice, they would have chosen a family instead.
Children do not belong in institutions. Children belong in families.