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
Posted 3/27/15 at 7:53 AM | Bethany Christian Services
Today’s guest post is contributed by Melanie Bechtel, a military wife and Bethany adoptive mother of three children with special needs. A dedicated and busy mother of six, Melanie remains connected to her Bethany branch as a speaker for waiting family and new parenting classes.
For health reasons, doctors advised me to not have more children. My husband, Josh, and I were blessed to have Seth, now 13; Caleb, now 10; and Damaris, now 9, but our dream of an even larger family seemed to be over—until we discovered we were both interested in adoption. FULL POST
Posted 3/26/15 at 12:51 PM | Bethany Christian Services
Today’s guest post is by Laura-Valentine, singer/song-writer artist and adoption advocate. She shares candidly and deeply about her ongoing journey as an adult adoptee.
I am adopted.
My parents never hid that fact from me, but it didn’t register for a long time. When it did, I slowly began to address another fact: my birthmother had given me up. Dealing with the lost connection to my birthfamily in China has been a struggle ever since. I started to understand words like “abandonment”. And as I grew, I asked many questions like, Why did my birthparents give me up? Was I not worth it? Did they think they could not love me? I would think about what my life would be like if I had remained a part of my birthfamily. Would I have siblings? A sister? FULL POST
Posted 3/26/15 at 11:47 AM | Bethany Christian Services
When Jennifer gets ready for work, she never knows what the day will bring. As an administrative assistant at her local Bethany office, she greets guests, supports the staff, and does her part to advance Bethany’s mission: demonstrating the love and compassion of Jesus Christ by protecting and enhancing the lives of children and families.
Seven years ago, Bethany was nowhere on her radar. Although she’d made a profession of faith at 11, she acknowledges that she walked away from God in her teen years. What began as “freedom” to do whatever she pleased turned into a grueling nine-year drug addiction that dominated every aspect of her life.
“I could not see past one day,” she said. “I assumed I would just keep using until I died. I had even pictured that.” FULL POST
Posted 3/26/15 at 11:32 AM | Bethany Christian Services
Amylynn, an adoptee, grew up with a desire to know more about the circumstances that led to her adoption. Despite being spoiled, wanted, and loved as the baby of her family, her determination to find the missing pieces of her story took her to South Korea, in hopes of understanding her identity and finding a place where she belonged.
I was young when I found out I was adopted, but not too young to have not noticed a difference between me and my siblings. My sister, also adopted, had black hair and brown eyes like me—but my three older siblings were blond-haired and blue-eyed. When I learned I was adopted, not like them, I was baffled and upset to discover my perception of reality was distorted. Mostly, I convinced myself that being “adopted” meant not that I was chosen or desired, but given up, rejected. I didn’t know what I wanted to know, but I searched for answers FULL POST