A Different Kind of Wonderful: Adopting a Son
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Trafficking is modern-day slavery with women, men, and children lured or coerced into indentured labor or sexual exploitation. UNICEF estimates as many as 5.5 million child victims fuel this $150 billion industry.
Organizations including the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Christian Alliance for Orphans agree that children in orphanages and those aging out of foster care are particularly vulnerable without the protection of a family.
Bethany Christian Services is one of the leading child and family organizations calling attention to the global scourge of human trafficking. They play a vital role in disrupting the trafficking pipeline.
“Most of the children we serve are at risk,” said Brian De Vos, Bethany’s senior vice president of child and family services. “The most susceptible children are those without strong family support. More than 144 million children worldwide have lost one or both parents to war, violence, disease, or disaster. Bethany is changing the paradigm from raising these children in institutions to equipping families to protect and care for these children in loving homes.”
In 2010, with strong government and NGO partnerships, Bethany began training Ethiopian families to become foster and adoptive parents. The concept of adoption was virtually unknown in this country where orphanages had long been the unquestioned standard for orphan care.
“The Bible was our foundation to talk to people about family, love, and the value of children,” De Vos said. “With sensitivity to their cultural beliefs about children, we taught best practices for caring for children with disabilities, children who had experienced trauma and abuse, and children who were simply not blood relatives. We provided the same rigorous training and education we provide for foster and adoptive families in the U.S.”
Bethany continues to do home studies, supervise placements, and provide ongoing case management to ensure not only that children are safe from immediate harm, but that six months and one year later the children are thriving in a family. Building on the success of this community-based model, Bethany has developed similar programs in Ghana, South Africa, and Zambia.
In Haiti, six years after the devastating earthquake, tens of thousands of people still live in tent cities with limited access to food, water, sanitation, and basic security. Children there face an extreme risk of sexual assault and abduction. Bethany has partnered with the government and local faith community to form Operation Exodus in Port-au-Prince. This initiative provides sustainable housing so families can once more experience the dignity of privacy and the security of a roof overhead and doors that lock.
Bethany is also striving to dismantle restavek, a form of modern-day slavery in Haiti where impoverished parents surrender children to wealthy (or less poor) families, sometimes relatives or neighbors, in hopes that the children will have a better life. The children who may have been promised food, housing, and education often become domestic servants who may be beaten and abused. Bethany works with the faith community in Haiti to remove children from these arrangements and place them in families where they will receive food, medical care and an education.
Human trafficking is alive and well in our country, too, with UNICEF calling the U.S. a “top destination point for victims of child trafficking and exploitation.” Children most at risk here include those in or aging out of the child welfare system, many of whom have already experienced abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
A 2012 survey of the Los Angeles Probation Department survey revealed that 59 percent of the 174 youth arrested for prostitution were in the foster care system. They had been recruited by traffickers and pimps from group homes.
UNICEF cites a statistic that 1 in 3 runaway youth in America is solicited for sex within 48 hours of running away or becoming homeless. This is why staff in Bethany branches across the U.S. are so committed to identifying and licensing foster families in the Christian community and encouraging families to adopt through the foster system.
“Our mission is to demonstrate the love and compassion of Jesus Christ through quality social services,” said De Vos. “We believe every child deserves a loving family—that’s where they thrive best. We are on the ground around the world, launching services for children and families that literally set them free. And we rely on the global Christian community to help us love and protect children in vulnerable situations. This is living out the Gospel.”
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