International (MNN) — Foster care is further expanding to countries around the world and becoming a more cultural norm in developing nations.
Bethany Christian Services has been integral in establishing foster care as well as foster-to-adopt programs. They are working in 15 nations around the globe, including the United States, Ethiopia, Haiti, Albania, and several other countries in Africa, to help place children with families.
Bethany’s Kristi Gleason shares it hasn’t always been easy to start up programs, but they’ve seen amazing results.
“One of my favorites is not the story of one particular family, but it’s the story of our foster program in Ethiopia in general,” Gleason says.
She shares that when starting up the program, many people in both Ethiopia and in the U.S. were skeptical. They told the ministry that foster care would never work and that people wouldn’t be willing to take care of an unrelated child.
However, Bethany pushed on and worked through the local Church to find families to take care of children “because we really believe that children deserve to grow up in a loving family and not in an orphanage setting,” Gleason says.
After hard work and effort, families in Ethiopia not only took children in, but they told Bethany that they wanted to be adoptive parents.
Gleason says this amazed the ministry because they weren’t expecting to establish their foster-to-adopt program in Ethiopia.
“That to us really spoke very clearly about the need for foster care, but also the need for permanency for kids. And so, that’s a great story of a whole group of people coming together and changing the lives of many, many kids – hundreds of kids – in Ethiopia, but also changing the system and changing the way people in Ethiopia think about both orphan care and foster care.”
Differences in Foster Care Abroad
As foster care and adoptive systems have developed, Gleason notes both look a little different abroad in the child welfare and court systems compared to the system in the United States.
“Foster children maybe are a little bit different in the countries that we work in than foster children in the U.S., only because in a lot of the countries that we’re working in, the child welfare systems… aren’t as developed as they are in the U.S. And so, while the courts are very involved in the foster care system in the U.S., they’re not as involved in the countries that we work in,” Gleason says.
Instead of relying largely on courts or the government, children rely more on organizations like Bethany to help them find a home.
“For example, in Ethiopia, children are not as connected with the court system. So, what we do is we really look towards working with the government, but we’re really looking at getting children that live in orphanages into foster families versus children that have been removed.”
Gleason says there are many cases in the United States where children are removed from homes because of abuse and neglect, but “we don’t see as many of those in the countries that we work in just because the systems aren’t as mature.”
This is why Bethany Global focuses on putting children living in orphanages into foster and potential adoptive families.
“Really, a foster child that we work with in Ethiopia could have been living in an orphanage for one to five years because either their parents have passed on or because their parents were too poor to take care of them.”
Similarities in Foster Care Abroad
While there are differences in the foster care system, Gleason says the definition of being a foster family abroad is similar to what it means to be one in the United States. Families take in children, support them, train them, and love them.
“The way we run our foster programs in-country is very similar to how it’s done in the United States in order to make sure that both foster parents are supported and that foster children are safe,” Gleason says.
“So, a foster family in Haiti goes through a very similar process of the foster family in the U.S., meaning they have to do a certain number [of hours] of training, they have to get a home study, they have to do background checks, and get health checks to make sure that they’re healthy enough to care for another child.”
Whether abroad or in the United States, Bethany’s top priority is to place children in safe and steady environments for foster care or adoption. They don’t want children to stay in orphanages, residential care, or group homes because they know children will thrive “in a family setting – not a family-like setting – a family setting.”
Bethany trains foster and adoptive families to know how to care for children.
“That steadied family that knows what their strengths are, they’re connected to referral systems and support systems, and they’ve been trained and prepared in how to connect with that foster child, that child is going to have an absolutely much better experience than a family that hasn’t been supported or isn’t as trained in dealing with things like grief, and loss, and all of the normal things that foster children go through. So, I think that a steadied family really sets a child up for absolute success of a placement,” Gleason says.
Bethany asks for your prayers. Pray for the children in orphanages, group homes, and those without a mother or father to be placed in a loving, Christian environment that points them to God. Pray God would enable Bethany to train families to love and guide children.
You can also give financially and share stories of foster and adoptive success through Bethany so more people will join them in partnership.