Editor's Note : A new monthly feature we are offering begins this month. Our Charity Focus monthly article will spotlight a well-established charity with a stellar reputation in the adoption/humanitarian realm.
Every night, there are 143 million orphan children around the world who tuck themselves into bed. They don't have a mother to read them a story or bring them a glass of water; no father to assure them that monsters aren't hiding under their bed. These orphans go to sleep feeling afraid, lonely and unloved.
Buckner Foster Care has been caring for children in the United States since 1879, when R.C. Buckner established the Buckner Orphans Home in Dallas , Texas . Since then, Buckner has expanded to serve orphan children internationally in more than 55 countries through program development, humanitarian aid, orphanage improvements, mission trips, foster care and adoption.
Buckner Foster Care launched its first international foster care program in conjunction with Russian officials in Vladimir , Russia in 1999. Overcrowded orphanages and a struggling economy provided a backdrop for Buckner to implement its historical foster care program to reduce the number of children in orphanages and provide a supportive, nurturing Christian family environment for children.
Our philosophy has always been to do what's best for the children, said Randy Daniels, Buckner international program director. We have been asked by so many foreign officials for help because foster care works. It helps their economy and places children in supportive home environments, which in many countries helps reduce future crime, prostitution and gang-related activities.
It really doesn't matter whether a child lives in the United States, Kenya or anywhere in the world, the one thing all children have in common is the desire to be part of a family, said Buckner President and CEO Ken Hall. Foster care gives them that.
Buckner now provides foster care programs in Vladimir and St. Petersburg , Russia ; Nairobi and Busia , Kenya ; and Oradea , Romania . Buckner has also provided extensive foster care training in Latvia and Guatemala .
The most critical part of the foster care program is identifying, training and supporting the families, Daniels said.
Buckner conducts an extensive interview process for foster families. Once families are selected, the undergo training and are assigned a Buckner case manager to supervise the family and the children. Families are provided with ongoing financial and humanitarian aid support, as well as necessary counseling.
Foster care group homes in Romania have perhaps made one of the biggest impacts on the country's orphan children who used to live in multi-storied, overcrowded orphanages and were cared for by overtaxed workers.
Gyongyver Paizs-Kertesz, a teacher assigned to a boys' group home in Targu Mures , Romania , said the change in the children is amazing. They are more relaxed, and more eager to learn.
I can see a difference, she said. Now they are free. And because we have few kids, we can spend a lot of time with each one.
Fridah Aura, a Buckner foster care caseworker in Nairobi , said that foster homes expose children to life and allow them to interact with more people than in an orphanage.
They learn how to be independent, she added. Foster families give children a sense of belonging and acceptance.
Children in Buckner Foster Care in Romania and Kenya are now available for sponsorship ( http://www.buckner.org/site /PageServer?pagename=bois_home ). For just $75 a month, you can ensure a foster child and family receive the support they need through food, humanitarian aid and education.
Foster care sponsorships help children like 9-year-old Vivian, who lived alone with her siblings following the death of her parents to AIDS before being placed in a Christian foster family.
Now, the responsible and composed Vivian is a straight A student and wants to be a policewoman when she grows up, to protect my brothers and sisters from harm, she said.
More than 20 foster children still need to be sponsored.
In addition to foster care, Buckner serves more than 6,500 children each year in 40 orphanages in Guatemala , Peru , Latvia , Russia , Romania , Kenya , Ethiopia and China . Buckner also provides more than 200,000 children each year with a new pair of shoes as part of the Shoes for Orphan Souls ministry ( www.shoesforophansouls.org ).
More than 1,000 individuals traveled on short-term mission trips with Buckner in 2006, helping to share God's love with orphan children. Mission trip participants conduct Vacation Bible Schools, sports camps, distribute humanitarian aid, and sometimes help with orphanage improvements. To see a list of 2007 mission trips, please visit www.helporphans.org/go .
Your faith gets stretched in a way that we don't allow it to stretch when we're at home, said Charles Risinger, a three-time Buckner mission trip participant to Latvia . You see how God makes things happen when you realize that it's just not humanly possible for you to have done it yourself.
For more information on Buckner, please visit www.buckner.org .