Posted 9/18/14 at 1:20 PM | Bill Blacquiere
After six years, the United States is lifting a ban on adoptions from Vietnam, allowing vulnerable children from the country to be adopted by loving, forever families. Adoption of Vietnamese children was prohibited by the United States in 2008, following allegations that babies were being sold in Vietnam. I strongly supported Washington’s decision then to prohibit adoptions from Vietnam until that country’s government took the necessary steps to protect its waiting children. That said, I’m pleased that our government is confident Vietnam has taken such steps and that the country’s vulnerable children now have a greater chance for placement with couples who will provide the love and nurturing they need.
In 2013, Vietnam reported 236,224 orphans in the country.1 They currently have no foster care system, and domestic adoptions are rare. Poverty is widespread in Vietnam, and there is sometimes a belief that an orphanage can better provide for children than impoverished parents.
Vietnam has put in place a new legal framework under the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, and two organizations have been approved to operate in the country—Dillon International, Inc., and Holt International. Initially, perspective adoptive parents will be able to adopt only children who are older than five, have special placement needs, or have siblings. FULL POST
Posted 9/16/14 at 6:29 PM | Bill Blacquiere
What happens to the children who age out of foster care? Last year, approximately 23,000 children who were in foster care turned 18 and left without a family or support system. Annually, nearly 40 percent of those who age out end up homeless, and only 48 percent find employment. Young women are especially vulnerable, often turning to prostitution, which is why I have such high regard for Magdalene, an organization in Nashville that has a 72 percent success rate in helping such women turn their lives around.
Magdalene provides a two-year intensive program for women who are victims of prostitution, trafficking, and drug addiction. It was founded in 1996 by Becca Stephens, an Episcopal priest who placed five women in a donated house and then engaged them in a recovery program based on 24 spiritual principles. Today, Magdalene serves 25 women and operates without any state or federal aid. Part of their support comes from a social enterprise, Thistle Farms, which hires “graduates” of Magdalene to manufacture health and beauty products. FULL POST
Posted 9/15/14 at 12:36 PM | Bill Blacquiere
What should we do when people from other countries flee to our borders to escape dangerous conditions? Earlier this month the United States Border Patrol reported more than 66,000 unaccompanied immigrant children were apprehended at the U.S. border during the first 11 months of the fiscal year. Another 60,000 individuals entered as families. The vast majority reported they were fleeing various forms of violence and exploitation in their home countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico.
As the leader of a faith-based organization committed to serving vulnerable children and families, I struggle with this challenge. I haven’t discovered any easy answers, but a new book underscores my own conviction that before we offer pronouncements on this topic, we need to stand in the shoes of those who risk everything to come here.
Where the Wind Leads (Thomas Nelson, 2014) shares the story of one family’s escape from Vietnam shortly after communists from the north invaded the U.S.-backed south and established a brutal dictatorship. Author Vinh Chung was only 3 and a half years old when his mother, father, grandmother, and five siblings shoved off in a boat with 285 other Vietnamese fleeing the oppressive regime. Stripped of their wealth and ability to earn a living, they knew it was only a matter of time before their communist captors exacted revenge. FULL POST
Posted 9/11/14 at 2:01 PM | Bill Blacquiere
We thank You for creating us all in Your image.
We thank You for the miracle of life.
We are blessed to be touched by life.
Posted 9/9/14 at 4:31 PM | Bill Blacquiere
One day my wife, Kim, saw 3-year-old Isaiah’s picture in Bethany’s LifeLines magazine. He was among the children waiting for a loving family. The possibility of adding Isaiah to our family began through a casual conversation, a series of prayerful discussions, and finally an inquiry made to Bethany about his availability. At the time our family included eight children—five who came biologically, three by way of adoption, all a blessing from God—but we had room for Isaiah.
It was explained to us that there would be some special considerations with Isaiah's health. Through a series of tests it seemed likely that his life would be affected by Fanconi Anemia. What seemed most important was assurance that we, Midwest farmers, could meet his special needs. And as Kim and I researched resources and worked through the adoption process, there were emotional highs and lows. But through it all, and in timely ways, our God revealed Himself in spectacular ways, and mercies were new and sufficient every morning—in particular one summer morning.
I was experiencing enough doubt about the plan to make the decision to remove our family from the process. I became convinced that we did not have enough resources to see this process through to the end. I was at our small hometown airport awaiting our business banker from Indiana, who was coming for an annual farm visit. As I waited I found a seat in the early morning sunshine. I waited, head in hands, elbows on knees, knowing that I needed to call Kim and tell her about my decision. For some reason I did not make that call. FULL POST
Posted 9/4/14 at 12:45 PM | Bill Blacquiere
Today’s guest post is contributed by Mark Akers, adoption specialist for Bethany Christian Services.
The voice on the other end of the phone was familiar and as he identified himself, I recalled working with this young man whom I will refer to Jeff and his wife, whom I’ll call Kari, through counseling services they received at Bethany. Both grew up in foster care, aging out of the system when they turned 18. They found each other and immediately fell in love, got married, and over the next 12 years had four children together.
They desperately wanted to give their children the stable home they never had, but struggled with drugs, alcohol, unemployment, and the lack of a support network. When things got really bad, their children were placed in foster care. Sadly, this pattern is not unusual for children who age out of foster care—their children were in and out of the home and shuffled from one foster care home to another. I’ll never forget what their oldest daughter once told me: “I just want my own mom, a forever family, and my own bedroom rug.” Is it any wonder she was known by caseworkers as “the girl who never smiles”? FULL POST
Posted 9/2/14 at 11:32 AM | Bill Blacquiere
You’ve likely heard about “paying it forward,” but with a gun? That probably needs some explanation, starting with a little boy who bounced around between foster homes and state-run orphanages.
By the time Gary Larson was 17 years old and about to age out of the foster care system, he easily fit the description of a troubled teenager. His Bethany Christian Services caseworker and his wife decided to adopt Gary, and today he is married to a lovely woman, father to four children, vice president of a bank in Charlotte, North Carolina, and serves as a Bethany board member in his state.
“My life is not what the playbook called for, but what God designed for me,” Gary told me recently.
Now about that gun.
Gary is passionate about long-range precision shooting. Men and women compete for prizes by shooting at targets at distances from 1,000 yards to a mile. He’s even more passionate about adoption, so he started the Guardian Long Range Competition (www.guardianlongrange.com) as a fundraising event, with all proceeds going to Bethany Christian Services. His initial event drew 42 competitors from 11 states whose $150 entry fee went directly to Bethany to help us find loving homes for orphans and vulnerable children. FULL POST
Posted 8/28/14 at 10:20 PM | Bill Blacquiere
How do you encourage families to adopt in a country where the language has no word for adoption? At Bethany Christian Services we have experienced that challenge in Ethiopia, and according to author and ministry leader Keith McFarland, the same language barrier exists in Uganda, home to 2.7 million orphans. Keith, the principal of New Hope Institute of Childcare and Family, which is part of an amazing ministry called New Hope Uganda, places his hope for Uganda’s orphans in the church.
“We train pastors how to help build up solid families in their churches who can then adopt and bring the fatherless into healthy homes,” Keith explained, adding that New Hope Uganda now has seven families caring for orphans.
So how did a kid from the hills of West Virginia end up in Uganda, where he has lived with his family for the last ten years? As a student at Moody Bible Institute, he developed a heart for kids when he volunteered to work in Chicago’s notorious housing projects. But his passion for Africa came from cutting classes at Moody his senior year. If that needs explaining, so does the fact that in addition to prayer, his ministry relies on a thousand chickens for support. It’s all here in a fascinating conversation I had recently with Keith, whose book In Pursuit of Orphan Excellence ought to be required reading for any ministry or individual interested in caring for orphans at home or abroad. FULL POST
Posted 8/26/14 at 12:17 PM | Bill Blacquiere
Last week, I received an urgent email from our partner, Bethany Social Services Ukraine. As you know, Ukraine is locked in a vicious struggle that has claimed the lives of 2,500 people in the last three months. The heaviest fighting rages in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, creating IDPs, or internally displaced persons. According to the United Nations, as of August 5, 117,000 people have fled their homes, seeking refuge in safer parts of the nation.
Bethany Christian Services first entered Ukraine in the early 1990s after the breakup of the Soviet Union. With the fall of communism came an invitation for faith-based organizations such as ours to find adoptive homes for children ranging from infants to teenagers stockpiled in orphanages. I visited those orphanages, and the conditions were heartbreaking.
Over the years, we added family preservation services that worked alongside of our adoption program—providing various forms of assistance aimed at keeping families together and children out of orphanages. I’ll never forget visiting the home of a single mother we had been working with there. She had some mental health struggles, but with good counseling and the financial help from our family sponsorship program, this mother of three had turned the corner and the family was stable. FULL POST
Posted 8/21/14 at 8:44 PM | Bill Blacquiere
Recently, there has been much discussion about the influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America to the United States. The majority of these children have fled their home country to avoid being the victims of organized crime violence, including human trafficking—risking their lives and traveling hundreds or thousands of miles in deplorable and unsafe conditions. At Bethany Christian Services, our mission is to demonstrate the love and compassion of Jesus Christ by protecting and enhancing the lives of children through quality social services. As the discourse on unaccompanied minors continues, we’re planning to share stories in this space about the struggles these children face and the impact opening our hearts and homes to them can have on their lives. I’m sure you will be touched by these stories and will see the critical need for supporting these vulnerable children.
Brothers Sen Pu and Joseph were living with their parents in Myanmar when soldiers forced them into the notoriously corrupt and repressive army. As they were being marched off to a training camp, the brothers escaped and were smuggled into Malaysia, where they registered as refugees. FULL POST