In August 2007, with the help of Vizion Group, The Orphan Society of America (OSA) published an assessment on the state of parentless children and youth in the United States.

The research assessment found that there are unique vulnerabilities in children orphaned by violent death. Similar to grieving adults, there is great diversity in children’s responses to violence and loss, but there are also shared experiences which include: psychological distress, financial setbacks and secondary adversity (such as change of school and home), and learning to interact with new caregiver/s within either the child welfare system (foster care) or members of the orphan’s extended families (kinship care). We learned that the impact of this violence on children is often overlooked when it occurs between the parents, but is not directed towards the children. Typically, these children only receive specialized care when they are the direct victims, leaving a critical gap in rehabilitative measures for those who lose their parent/s violently.

It is difficult to draw the ideal map to helping children grieve after the violent death of their parent/s. There is little information on this subject, but there are some common denominators that contribute to the resiliency of orphans of violence:

  • Healthy bereavement process;
  • The emotional adjustment of the remaining caregiver;
  • An emotionally stable home environment;
  • Access to professional counseling;
  • Memorializing;
  • Emotional and financial support from friends and family; and
  • Opportunities for social and educational enrichment.

There has been so much attention paid to the international orphan crisis, but what these stories fail to address is the crisis right here in our own backyard. The violent death of a parent brings a painful mix of trauma and grief, and if left unaddressed, the cycle will continue. With the support of family, organizations like OSA, and our communities, orphans of violence can heal and become inspirations to those around them. As the only organization focused on serving this population, OSA can be the hope — and the light — for orphans of violence today and in the future.

Click here to access the full assessment.