For 75 years, Bethany Christian Services has demonstrated the love and compassion of Jesus Christ to vulnerable children by serving them and connecting them with families.
In addition to pregnancy counseling, private adoption, refugee resettlement, and other services, we provide temporary foster care and foster care adoption services for children in a number of locations across the country and around the world. It’s one of many ways we live out our foundational mission to share the gospel through action.
Last year, 442,000 children in the United States needed temporary foster care, and more than 123,000 foster children awaited an adoptive family—and these numbers are increasing. In Michigan alone, where Bethany is headquartered, the demand is so great that we are unable to find foster homes for approximately 5,000 children each year.
We believe every child should grow up knowing that he or she is valued and worthy of unconditional love and care. Children come to us from every possible background and having endured every kind of hardship. We don’t simply offer them basic human necessities like shelter; we also seek to empower, heal, and engage their minds and souls.
Bethany is unique because we primarily recruit foster and adoptive families from churches. We believe we are able to offer the best possible care to hurting children because Bethany’s foster families demonstrate the character of Jesus through their actions.
There’s no doubt our country is covered in chaos. In recent years, we’ve tried to urgently respond to the growing need for temporary foster care in our communities due to higher rates of opioid misuse and drug addiction. As Christians, we believe that we are called to provide for the welfare of children in need, specifically in the arena of foster care. In Michigan in 2018, Bethany provided foster care services for 1,744 children and helped 381 foster children be adopted into forever families. The children in our care spent 263,923 days in safe, loving foster homes
This is where the church must be—right where people are hurting.
Even as Christians we have political, socioeconomic, and cultural differences, but what we can all agree on is that God calls on His people to care for those in need, especially children. It’s with this mindset that we addressed the recent settlement agreement in Michigan, which requires state-contracted foster care organizations, like Bethany, to place foster children with all families, including same-sex couples.
The fact of the matter is that the government runs the foster care system. We cannot serve foster children without contracting with the state. So we faced a choice: Continue caring for hurting children in foster care or let our disappointment with government requirements supersede our compassion for kids who have suffered and need a loving family.
At Bethany, we believe the Bible is the living Word of God, and we still believe in God’s plan for marriage and family as it is outlined in the Scriptures. At the same time, it is clear to us that Bethany cannot cede the foster care space completely to the secular world and leave children without the opportunity to experience Jesus through our loving care. Therefore, we will continue foster care operations in Michigan and serve all families in Michigan for foster care and foster care adoption in compliance with our contract requirements.
Meeting this requirement doesn’t dramatically change our work. Compliance with this state requirement does not change our family placement practice with private domestic adoption or international adoption. This decision only impacts our work with the Michigan foster care system.
Bethany will continue to partner with the Christian community to recruit prospective foster and adoptive families. We remain unashamedly Christian in our practice, motivated and guided by our faith.
Staying involved in this work provides Christian families the opportunity to partner with an agency that shares their faith and to show the love of Christ by caring for children and families in need. The church must be present and engaged.
In the Bible, Bethany was a place of refuge for Jesus, and we want Bethany to continue to be the place of refuge for children as it has been for 75 years. We believe families are the answer to healing our communities and approaching chaos with love. One family at a time, we can work together to provide love and safety for the children who need it most.
Come along side us, pray for us, partner with us, help us serve even more vulnerable children who need loving families and to know that God loves them. The need is great, and it’s time for the church to step up.
Chris Palusky is the president and CEO of Bethany Christian Services.
Speaking Out is Christianity Today’s guest opinion column and (unlike an editorial) does not necessarily represent the opinion of the magazine.