A Second Chance at Home: The Story of Isaac Yeboah Agyei and Keeping Families Together

Charles Wundengba

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A young girl, lost and confused, arrives at an orphanage. The comfort of familiar faces and voices replaced by the sterile silence of an institution. This was the reality for countless children in Ghana before Isaac and his team stepped in.Isaac's story isn't about a single act of heroism, but rather a relentless pursuit of reuniting families.

Isaac is the Program Manager for Alternative Family-Based Care at Bethany Christian Services Global Ghana. Since 2014, he's been on a mission: reuniting children with their families. His story sheds light on a global issue – the institutionalization of children, and the transformative power of keeping families together.

The Problem: Uprooted Lives While orphanages evoke images of caring for the helpless, statistics paint a different picture. UNICEF estimates that globally, over 8 million children reside in orphanages, yet a staggering 80% have at least one living parent. Poverty, lack of resources, or even the misconception that orphanages offer a better life can lead to family separation. The consequences of institutionalization are severe. Children in orphanages often experience stunted growth, emotional detachment, and a lack of individual attention. The loss of familiar surroundings, severed family bonds, and the uncertainty of their future can leave lasting wounds. Isaac emphasizes, "The whole idea is to find a way to walk with the family and empower them...to become one again."

Isaac's Mission: Rebuilding Broken Bridges Isaac's role goes beyond simply managing a program. He's a bridge builder, reconnecting children with their families. The process is meticulous. Imagine a detective story, but instead of chasing criminals, Isaac and his team chase after lost connections. They scour case records, interview caregivers, and gather any piece of information that might lead them to a child's family. It's a race against time, for the longer a child stays in an orphanage, the harder it becomes to rebuild a broken bond.

The Challenges: Missing Pieces and Mending Hearts The road to reunification is paved with obstacles. Incomplete records, limited information, and the emotional toll of separation make the task even more daunting. Sometimes, communication becomes a barrier, with children arriving at orphanages unable to speak or too young to remember details about their families. In such cases, Isaac and his team rely on sheer determination and a deep well of empathy. But the challenges extend beyond logistics. Children who have experienced separation often develop emotional and psychological issues. Trauma can manifest in various ways, from withdrawal to behavioral problems. Isaac acknowledges this and ensures that children receive the support they need to cope with the emotional upheaval. This might involve counseling, play therapy, or simply creating a safe space for them to express their feelings.

A Story of Hope: Smiles Brighter Than Ever Despite the challenges, Isaac's dedication has yielded remarkable results. He recounts the story of a young girl who, after being separated from her family for over a year, was successfully reunited. The joy in her eyes and the relief on her parents' faces paint a thousand pictures. This is just one example of the countless lives Isaac and his team have touched. Another story highlights the power of collaboration. Here, a family struggling with basic necessities like shelter had three children placed in an orphanage. Through collaboration with social workers and other stakeholders, Isaac was able to help secure a suitable home for the family which enabled them to reunify with one of the children, while relatives stepped up to take back the other two. These stories and many others, are the fuel that keeps Isaac going.

Collaboration is Key Isaac's work doesn't happen in a vacuum. He emphasizes the importance of collaboration with various stakeholders – orphanages, government agencies, and social workers. Regular meetings, case conferences, and follow-up calls ensure that everyone involved plays their part effectively. Sometimes, it's about gentle reminders, other times, a nudge in the right direction. It's a delicate dance, but one that ultimately benefits the children. The Reward: Seeing Children Thrive What keeps Isaac going in the face of such immense challenges? It's the simple joy of seeing a child reunited with their family. He describes the transformation – the way their skin seems to glow, their smiles become brighter. These subtle changes speak volumes about the healing power of family. For Isaac, there's no greater reward than witnessing these moments of pure joy. Through dedication, collaboration, and a heart brimming with empathy, Isaac is rewriting narratives, one family reunion at a time.