Haiti (MNN) — June 1 is International Children’s Day: a day dedicated to the awareness of children’s issues such as education, health care, and human rights.
While any good-natured person would want a child to be reared in the best possible environment, there has long been debate about what that looks like. And with Haiti recently overhauling its child-welfare system, it currently stands at the intersection of this issue.
Haiti drastically changed its adoption and foster care policies to keep more children in their home country and to avoid adoption-scammers, among other reasons. The Haitian government’s decisions to prohibit private adoptions, restrict the amount of foreign adoption agencies allowed to work in the country and to limit the amount of Haitian children that can be adopted per year went into full effect on April 1, 2014. Bethany Christian Services, a global nonprofit organization that provides adoption, foster care and pregnancy counseling opportunities, is one organization Haiti’s government allowed to work in the country.
But despite these restrictions on international adoptions, Bethany has recently started a foster care program in Haiti, where it works closely with the Haitian government and a local church to give children a stable, loving home while keeping them in their native culture.
“We have a very huge buy-in from the government. They want to be involved,” Bethany International Programs Director Kristi Gleason said. “But we are also tapping into those already-built networks of the local church. The local church in Haiti is very much alive, it’s very dynamic, it’s very much a part of the daily life of Haitians. By partnering both with the church and the government, we feel that we have a very strong ability to succeed.”
Opinions differ regarding the change of Haiti’s child welfare system. Some say the healthiest place for a child to grow up is in his or her own family or culture. They say there are too many adoption agencies who scam parents into giving up their children. Others argue, however, that a child’s home country may lack resources necessary for their survival. Bethany considers both of these opinions to give children the most stable life possible.
“Bethany fully supports inter-country adoption,” Gleason said. “We’ve had an inter-country adoption program in Haiti for quite some time now. There’s a place for international adoption, especially in Haiti.
“While we certainly support a child’s right to grow up in their biological family, grow up in their country of origin, there is a place for inter-country adoption, especially in Haiti because there are kiddos who are growing up in orphanages who have special placement needs, who have needs that are not able to be met in Haiti; medically, psychologically. And those are the children we are really trying to find families for in the states.
“There’s a continuum of care that we very much support in trying to keep kids in their families, but we know that not all kids are able to stay in their families.”
One of Bethany’s goals is to represent Christ to the children it works with. This is done less by preaching than it is by imitating Jesus through daily actions.
“(The Gospel) is the foundation of our work. It’s what allows us to do what we do,” Gleason said. “So while we work in the church and through the church, its not so much about sharing the Gospel as it is living the Gospel, acting out the desires of God through our actions in Haiti.
“When we do foster care training, we recruit through the local church, but also our training has a biblical basis to it. All of the reasons why we tell families why we want them to become a foster family is because it is answering God’s desire to take care of each other.”
Answer God’s call to serve the vulnerable and help Bethany do the same. Pray that Bethany would be successful in providing Haitian children with a stable environment through its foster care program. If you feel God’s leading, Visit bethanyglobal.org to see how you can sponsor a family or financially support a child.