U.S. First Lady to visit Christian ministry in Albania

By June 8, 2007

Albania (BCS) — Accompanying her husband on a presidential trip, Laura Bush will visit a group home started and supported by Bethany Social Services of Albania on Sunday, June 10, in Tirana, the nation's capital.

Mrs. Bush will meet with Bethany staff to learn more about issues such as child abandonment, the adoption process, and the in-country social service programs available for women and children. The group home, Hannah's House, which provides shelter and care for 50 children ages four and under, will be the main focus of the First Lady's visit. 

Caregivers and volunteers facilitate cognitive and social development of the children through play, craft projects, and recitation. Each child living in Hannah's House is waiting for his/her "forever family."

For some, this comes through domestic or international adoption. Other children are reunited with their biological families or placed with extended family members.

Bethany Christian Services, headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a worldwide adoption and family services agency. Bethany has international ministries (known as Bethany Social Services) in more than a dozen countries, including Albania. In Eastern Europe, Bethany Social Services has partnered with national and local governments and other NGOs to deliver social services.

Bethany has been active in Albania since 1991 when it began working with the government prior to its democratic elections. One of Bethany's early accomplishments was assisting the government in establishing a school of social work at the University of Tirana.

Within a few years, hundreds of social workers graduated and were integrated into the community. In addition, Bethany built homes for orphaned and abandoned children on a campus outside the capital. The director of Bethany Social Services of Albania is Dr. Agim Xhumari, who oversees a staff of more than 60 social workers, psychologists, doctors, nurses, teachers, and support staff.

He says it's about partnerships. "The government of Albania values children in the family. This is, of course, the value that Bethany Christian Services tries to implement in everyday care for the children. It's a natural value for all of us that we are demonstrating through our services."  

Bethany provides a variety of other services for children and families in Albania, including medical clinics that serve women and children. Bethany social workers in hospitals provide vital information to mothers, and Bethany social workers in schools work with children at risk of being institutionalized or separated from their families.

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