My eldest daughter, Faith, threw up and started screaming.

My youngest daughter, Hannah, woke up from a nightmare, screaming.

My only son, Caleb, got up and went to the bathroom, streaming.

Caleb needed a little extra help trying to differentiate the toilet from the wastepaper basket. His first choice was not correct.

Just another night at the Myhill household.

When I was in Kathmandu last year, we had a meeting with a Nepalese pastor scheduled for 8:00 am one particular morning. He and his wife were taking care of 22 orphans in their home.

When 8:15 am came, with no pastor in sight, I didn’t think much of it. The developing world is notorious for keepings its own interpretation of appointments.

When he finally came in 40 minutes late, he apologized and said that he had come directly from the hospital after being up all night. One of the children had developed a high fever and needed to be put on an IV for medication and rehydration.

This pastor explained that, with 22 children under his extended family’s care, there was always something requiring their attention in the wee hours.

Families know that this is part of the routine, part of the commitment, of taking care of children.

With orphans, the nighttime requirements are even greater. Traumatized, formerly-abused, often scared, and with a fragile sense of security, they are subject to all kinds of night terrors and woes. Plop them in a developing world context where a variety of illnesses and full-blown diseases attack them daily, and you’ve got a recipe for many sleepless nights.

In one of my former ministry roles of establishing model orphanages in China, it pained me to see some nighttime ‘caregiver’ ratios in the range of 75 children per person. A recent application from Uganda explained that the proposed project would have just two people sleeping in the same quarters with 60 children during the night.

We never want to see that many children in one of our homes. And we certainly don’t want to see just a couple of token caregivers. We want families. The children crave families.

This is one of the great failures of institutionalization. Children need the same ‘ratios’ at night. They need to know that their family is there for them…not just another shift of less-familiar adult bodies.

Family-style homes with family-style commitments are the only viable solution. The children yearn for familiarity, stability and security.

…They yearn for a momma and poppa that will help them at night when they get sick, have bad dreams, and pee in wastepaper baskets.