Posted 7/21/15 at 4:57 PM | Bethany Christian Services
More than 23,000 children in the United States “age out” of the foster care system every year – meaning they turn 18 and are no longer in their state’s legal care, despite the fact that they have yet to achieve a permanent connection with a forever family. That’s 23,000 kids every year that are forced into adulthood, often long before they’re prepared to take care of themselves.
Those 23,000 children are an indication of a greater problem: a foster system that isn’t completely meeting the demands of vulnerable children in need, even as thousands of dedicated professionals across the country work tirelessly to support such children. In order to properly serve the vast number of children requiring loving, nurturing homes, it’s imperative that we deploy innovative approaches to help them reach their unlimited potential.
Foster care serves a tremendous need in the United States to nurture children that have been separated from their biological families with the aim of eventually reuniting them if possible. Foster care is a prime opportunity to introduce vulnerable children to adults that can provide the care and parenting they desperately need, while also teaching them that others can be depended upon and trusted. FULL POST
Posted 7/21/15 at 4:20 PM | Bethany Christian Services
Realistic expectations are essential for any parent embarking on an adoption or foster care journey. While some might have an almost romantic notion of “rescuing” a child in need, what’s at play is so much more complex. Children who enter these homes with histories of abuse, neglect, and trauma have specific needs and may respond to foster and adoptive parents in unexpected ways that can challenge even the most well-intentioned.
Jayne Schooler and her husband, David, are staff members with Back2Back Ministries, an international Christian nonprofit organization dedicated to being a voice for orphans. The Schoolers travel to various international ministry sites, training ministry workers and child welfare professionals on how to care for children who have experienced trauma and loss.
“Children who come from abusive environments don’t have a voice,” said Jayne. “They often learn to express their needs through their behavior. Sometimes that behavior looks like manipulation, aggression, or control. But if we understood the meaning behind the behavior, we would deal with it differently.” FULL POST
Posted 7/14/15 at 2:19 PM | Bethany Christian Services
Margot Starbuck contributes to the adoption conversation with a variety of perspectives. She is an adoptee, an adoptive mother, an author, and an advocate for people with intellectual and physical disabilities.
She accompanied her son, who was adopted from India, on a homeland visit to help him understand more about his beginnings. The experience was as positive for Margot as it was for her son when she was able to connect with his experience as an adoptee wondering about birthparents and identity.
"As a child, all I knew about my birthparents is what I found in two or three paragraphs of paperwork,” Margot said. “Not all adoptive parents will have access to birthparent information, but it’s important to be as open as possible with kids. Talking about adoption and feelings about adoption and birthfamilies signals to children that it’s not shameful.”
Today, Margot volunteers in a variety of capacities with Reality Ministries in Durham, North Carolina. The organization “creates opportunities for teens and adults, with and without developmental disabilities, to experience belonging, kinship and the life-changing reality of Christ’s love.” She has met many families who have adopted children with special needs and seen the vast difference a forever family makes in the child’s life. “They thrive in ways the family never would have imagined,” she said. FULL POST
Posted 7/7/15 at 10:06 AM | Bethany Christian Services
In 2009, one of the pro-life movement’s most outspoken advocates came from an unlikely source—a former abortion clinic director with an eight-year Planned Parenthood career.
Abby Johnson was first introduced to Planned Parenthood when she was a college student in Texas. The recruiter’s message about providing critical health services for low-income women appealed to Abby. While she had grown up in a family that was ideologically pro-life, it wasn’t an issue Abby knew a lot about or had ever acted upon. The recruiter spoke about the dangers associated with back alley abortions and the risks to women’s health if this service wasn’t available. She assured Abby that abortion was only a small portion of what Planned Parenthood was about.
Abby began working with Planned Parenthood out of her fierce desire to help women. In her eight-year career, she progressed to the position of clinic director and ran the facility.
All of that changed in 2009 when Abby witnessed a rare ultrasound-guided abortion. “I watched a 13-week old child struggle for his life during the procedure,” she said. “I knew I had been lied to, and worse, I knew I had lied to thousands of women who had come to my facility.” FULL POST
Posted 7/6/15 at 10:38 AM | Bethany Christian Services
For those committed to the sanctity of human life, news in recent weeks was extremely positive as once again the abortion rate across the U.S. dropped. A nationwide survey released by the Associated Press documents that the abortion rate has dropped in almost every state in the U.S. since 2010.
Looking closely at the report, states that have enacted recent anti-abortion legislation have seen the greatest results, with declines of more than 15 percent. Meanwhile, states without policies focusing on the issue declined in the rankings as well.
The numbers mark a positive trend in our society’s values and an appreciation for the sanctity of life. The survey is an indication of a greater sense of understanding of the fact that life begins at conception, and that there are far better alternatives to abortion for those facing unplanned pregnancies.
Another factor in the decline of abortions throughout the country is the decline in teenage pregnancies. In 2010, teen pregnancies were at their lowest numbers in 30 years – another significant stride for our country.
An important step in educating pregnant women or couples about the alternatives to abortion is pregnancy counseling, which Bethany Christian Services offers to women and couples facing an unplanned pregnancy. FULL POST
Posted 6/30/15 at 8:23 AM | Bethany Christian Services
Stigma and other barriers to success are all too common for people with Down syndrome in the United States and across the globe. Abandoned children in China with Down syndrome face an unprecedented uphill battle in finding a family in their home country, as the stigma is so extreme it often warrants them “unadoptable.”
A new effort is underway to bring hope to these children. The Bamboo Project is a focused recruitment effort created by Bethany Christian Services to find families for children with Down syndrome. In less than two years, 10 children have been matched with loving forever families through the project.
Simeon is an introverted boy who enjoys listening to music and playing with the toys. When there is music playing he will laugh happily. Terah's caregivers describe her as a quiet girl with a rosy face, ready smile, and glimmer in her eyes. She is fond of being held and will blow kisses. Though quiet, Asher is an energetic little boy with a beautiful smile. He recognizes familiar people and is happy to see his caregivers.
These children are some of the 20 that are still in need of homes, with others still to come. Given the response we have seen to date from loving families across the country, in addition to the support we have received from advocates for children with Down syndrome, I’m confident that we will be able to match these children with forever families in the near future. FULL POST
Posted 6/24/15 at 5:01 PM | Bethany Christian Services
For nearly 40 years, Mercy Ships has been providing medical care in developing nations aboard a fleet of ships—essentially floating hospitals—sharing hope, healing, and Christ in 581 ports in 57 nations to date. The services their medical volunteers provide are valued at more than $1 billion, impacting more than 2.48 million of the world’s most desperate people.
Dr. Lyn Westman joined Mercy Ships in 1996 serving in a variety of roles, including chaplain for many years. In 2006, she started the organization’s mental health program. On the ships, her team provides counseling and pastoral care. On the ground, they train health care workers, church leaders, first responders, military personnel, orphanage workers, social workers, and traditional healers to effectively work with people who have experienced trauma.
“Grief, loss, and trauma are so common in the third world—the mortality rate is so high,” said Dr. Westman. “In many countries, 50 percent or more of the population is under 15 years of age. Poverty, diseases like Ebola, war, and tribal conflicts compound the problem, creating a whole other level of trauma.” FULL POST
Posted 5/28/15 at 9:05 AM | Bethany Christian Services
Decades ago, International Children’s Day (June 1st) was developed to draw awareness to children’s issues, including safety, education, human rights, and health care. With more than 144 million children worldwide having lost one or both parents, and with the continued rise in incidents of human trafficking around the world, drawing awareness to the plight of the world’s children has never been more important.
Children in every country, including the United States, are in danger of being trafficked. Those most at risk are the vulnerable children – those living without the love of a forever family. For without the love and nurturing of a forever family, children often times are left to fend for themselves – falling prey to unscrupulous adults whose only concern is capitalizing on the misfortunes of others.
Fortunately, as mentioned previously in this space, initiatives protecting the most innocent are being implemented in countries across the globe. Over the past several years, Bethany Christian Services has had the honor to work closely with a number of governments and NGOs to introduce and strengthen child welfare services so that children are able to remain with their biological parents or be placed in loving homes in their home country. Such efforts are critical to improving the variety of issues for which International Children’s Day was founded. FULL POST
Posted 5/26/15 at 10:33 AM | Bethany Christian Services
Before Jamie Schwandt was a commissioned officer in the United States Army Reserve—before he served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, earned his Doctor of Education degree, published a book, gave a public lecture, or became a husband a father—he was a vulnerable child in foster care.
In his own words, his life before foster care was destined for failure. His childhood was marked by his parents’ depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and his father’s eventual suicide. He found his opportunity to change his life in foster care.
“My first foster family introduced me to God, and my CASA worker and her husband were the reason I was baptized,” Jamie said. “I had foster families that took the time in the evenings to read the Bible to me. They helped me with school work, provided structure and discipline, and encouraged me to be socially active. I owe my success in life to God and to the great people I met in foster care.”
He entered the United States military at age 17 and has built his career serving our country. He defied the odds when he completed his bachelor’s degree (current statistics suggest about 2 percent of children in foster care will complete a college degree), and he went on to earn his Ed.D from the University of Kansas. For his dissertation, he studied the foster care system, specifically looking for themes that might indicate how children in foster care could overcome a turbulent childhood and achieve personal and professional success. FULL POST
Posted 5/20/15 at 11:51 AM | Bethany Christian Services
In the realm of child welfare, there’s a major sea change taking place that is impacting hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children around the world. Developing countries such as Ethiopia and Haiti, to name just a few, are committing resources to build or strengthen their child welfare services. As a result, more children are able to stay in their home countries, living in nurturing environments with biological family members.
You may have seen the Associated Press’ recent article on how improvements in Haiti have led to a decrease in adoption placement with families outside the country. The devastating earthquake in January 2010 initiated a desperately needed overhaul to the country’s child welfare system. Prior to and immediately after the earthquake, vulnerable families were routinely approached by disreputable organizations seeking to place children with adoptive couples outside of Haiti. This placement occurred under the false pretense that the children would get an education and come back to their biological families.
Today, Haiti’s new system requires counseling for families considering an adoption plan for their child. This counseling includes an explanation that they may never see their child again and allows a “cooling-off period” where birthparents are able to change their minds. Additionally, for those children whose birthparents are deceased, social workers in Haiti are required to try to find a relative who can step in to provide a loving home. FULL POST