A look at refugee foster care in the United States

By May 28, 2018

USA (MNN) – More than half of the refugees worldwide are children, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Many have been separated from their families or their parents can’t provide for them, leaving them in hopeless situations.

However, seeing the desperate situation of these children, Bethany Christian Services is helping to change their lives through their Refugee Foster Care Program.

Refugee Foster Care Program

(Photo and header photo courtesy of Bethany Christian Services via Facebook)

“Bethany Christian Services has a program that we actually help refugees from all over the world,” Bethany’s Ana Jose says.

“We have kiddos coming in from Central America. We have kids from Ethiopia, the Republic of the Congo. We have kiddos from Afghanistan in our program. Right now, we have a huge need for foster families to be able to open their home, their hearts to give our kids an opportunity to be part of their family.”

After refugee children have fled their home country and end up in refugee camps, Bethany receives their referrals and helps to get them processed, then brings them to the United States to live with a loving foster family.

Jose says there are millions and millions of refugee children who are in need of foster care. Bethany receives up to 60 referrals every week.

Placing Kids with Families

“Once we receive the referral, then we have to make sure that we find placements for those kiddos and that’s the biggest challenge that we have with the kids and the families to make sure that we are able to find families to take care of our youth.”

Jose says Bethany is trying to create awareness within the Church, and with the help of the Church, that refugee children are in desperate need of homes where they will be loved and cared for.

Many of the foster families come from the Church because they feel God calling them to serve.

“There’s kids out here that want to be a part of a family, a good family, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

When Bethany first starts searching for a family for kids, they look for any family members children may have in the United States.

“That’s our main goal,” Jose says. “We don’t want to separate kids from their family and we work diligently to ensure that we find family members and make sure that they actually qualify and can take care of the kiddo because, a lot of time[s], they might have a cousin, an aunt.”

However, sometimes even if a child does have a relative in the United States, they may not be in a position to take care of them. And many do not have any family in the country at all. When it comes down to this, Bethany searches for unrelated foster families who are willing to take a child in.

Foster Family Process

For foster families, the process is a lot of work. To start, they begin with an orientation with Bethany which covers the responsibilities of parents, the agency, and policies, and procedures.

“We want to make sure that family have a clear understanding of what it will take to become a foster parent,” Jose says.

“After that, the family can actually move forward to the next step, which will be to attend one of our [trainings], which consists of 10 consecutive weeks of training. The training is a little bit intense and one of the reasons why we offer that training is because we want to make sure that we provide foster families with the necessary tools in order for them to be successful in having a youth in their home.”

Changing Lives

Though the process to foster children is a lot of work, Jose says it’s truly rewarding because foster families are literally changing lives.

“A lot of [children], for the first time, when they come to the United States is when they know what it is to be in a home setting. That’s when they know what it is to have a mother figure, a father figure, even a grandparent, sometimes even a sister or a brother in their home. So, it means the world to them.”

(Photo courtesy of Bethany Christian Services via Facebook)

For some children, it will be the first time they attend school or are taken care of when they’re sick.

Jose says once the children’s parents are found or are back on their feet, Bethany will help to reunite families in the United States and set them up for a successful future.

May is National Foster Care Month. Celebrate that with Bethany by fostering refugee children. Open your home and your heart to serve and minister to kids who’ve lost almost everything.

Visit Bethany’s website to take the next step.

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