Refugee foster care provides new life to desperate youth

By April 4, 2012

USA (MNN) — Whether they come from countries at war, families in turmoil or communities in crisis, refugees around the globe seek peace and permanency.

Finding a new nation in which to take refuge is only the first step to rebuilding a life. When refugees enter a new place, they are confronted with learning a new language and new customs. But even before all that, they need to find a home.

This can be extremely difficult for adults who are doing all of this while trying to work through trauma and devastation, but imagine how much harder all of that would be as a child or teen.

For well over 30 years, Bethany Christian Services has been working to provide young refugees with safe places to live. It's all done through foster care.

The program focuses on West Michigan, an area of the United States particularly prone to refugee presence. Bethany started working with refugees to West Michigan from Vietnam after the Vietnam War. Since then, they've worked to place some of the Lost Boys of Sudan and others in overt crisis, but their main focal point is on an area not typically associated with refugees.

"In Central America, social unrest, poverty, and forced gang involvement is a pretty big thing," says Bethany's Maureen Homrich. "So kids come up from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and areas of Mexico. They ride the trains up and walk through deserts to find a better life here in the United States."

Once the kids arrive in the States, they often end up in some sort of temporary shelter. But Bethany's desire is to place these kids–when they're ready–into American foster care families.

"The need is for families to take these kids into their homes and to give them a place to process their grief, move on, get an education, and be in a loving home," explains Homrich.

Bethany has placed over 3,000 refugee foster youth in American families. Refugee foster care families range from families with small children to empty nesters: any Christian family with a love for the Lord and for serving the least of these–a profile these kids more than fit.

"These kids fit all four of the people groups that the Lord talks about in His Word," notes Homrich. "He talks to us about reaching the poor and needy, the broken and the oppressed, the fatherless and the orphans, and the foreigners. It is a biblical mandate. And our kids fit every one of those categories."

Although these families are only a temporary haven for students until they finish school and are able to live on their own, the surrogate families' involvement can be life-changing. Families share life and Christ with these refugees, and even go to a few hours of training every year to know how to better care for refugees far from home.

Right now, this program is only in West Michigan, but you can help from wherever you are. Funding is a huge need for program expansion. If you'd like to partner with Bethany financially on this project, click here.

If you do happen to live in the West Michigan area and would like to know more about hosting a refugee, click here. There are currently less than 100 registered families, but about ten times that amount are needed to place every refugee youth in a godly home. Prayerfully consider how you can best be involved.

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