Ghana (MNN) ― With a population of over eighteen million people, Ghana is the second-largest country in West Africa.
Urbanization and modernization comes with the territory of growth, but that can also bring its own challenge. More and more heads of households are going to work, struggling to eke out a living for their family members.
The dual problems of poverty and hunger are intensified under rapid population growth, outpacing food production, employment, and infrastructure. The upshot is that there are increasing numbers of vulnerable families, including not only single-parent families headed by poor women, but also poor families with elderly members or those with disabilities.
Since the family is the basis of Ghanaian society, things that affect the workers often have explosive impact on the extended family. As a result, the traditional family structure is eroding under the pressure of rapid social change.
In some cases, family experts say the fractures in the family are severe enough to interfere with its primary role of socialization. Kim Batts, the International Services Coordinator for Bethany Christian Services, says, "After they saw our foster care program in Ethiopia, we were invited by government officials to partner with them in order to work on inter-country adoption, foster care, domestic adoption and family reunification." Their adoption program began this year.
Children available for adoption from Ghana may have a history of malnourishment, low birth weight, and/or have other undiagnosed medical needs.
As a pilot program, Batts says, "We're working with the government and also through the churches to identify potential foster families, and we're assisting with the provision of training to those foster families." Government backing gives them credibility, too.
Because they partner with the local church, Bethany can get a better feel for the needs of the community. The church acts as both evangelist and disciple for those in the program, too. "Our staff in Ghana are all Christians, and that's something that will continue. Many of the foster families will be Christians as we will find them through the Church."
Keeping children out of the institutional orphanages is their aim, says Batts. It often means supporting, training, and otherwise strengthening the family unit to keep kids in the healthiest place for them to thrive. "We have an office in Ghana, and they're working directly with orphanages and the region to figure out which children could be reunified with their families, which ones could be placed in foster care/domestic adoption within Ghana, and which ones may be best placed in inter-country adoption."
Ghana fetes 55 years of independence on March 6, 2012. With Bethany's help, the next decade may be one more reason Ghana's families celebrate together.