Focus and Nonprofits

Bethany Christian campaign seeks adoption of special needs orphans

‘These 400’ is $3M national effort to match children and families.

March 14, 2014
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Four hundred special-needs orphans could finally have families to call their own by the end of next year.

Bethany Christian Services, a Grand Rapids-based nonprofit that works locally and internationally with families in need of counseling, adoption and temporary care services, launched These 400, its new campaign to find homes for 400 children. 

The children, who are typically older than 6 and have developmental or cognitive delays and moderate to severe physical needs, have been referred to Bethany by the nonprofit’s various partner countries.

The goal is to find a stable family for each of the 400 special needs children by Dec. 31, 2015, said Jeffrey Nitz, vice president of adoption and family services. The countries where the children currently reside in orphanages include China, Bulgaria, Haiti and Ethiopia, he said, adding that although these children have special placement needs, their need for a family to love and nurture them is no different than any other child.

“Of the millions of orphans across the globe waiting to know the love of a forever family, many are overlooked because of their special needs, whether it’s severe medical or emotional disabilities, the fact that the child is older, or is one of a group of siblings,” said Bill Blacquiere, president and CEO of Bethany.

“While they have substantial needs that make them hard to place, placement is not impossible. Having witnessed tremendous depths of love from couples before, including a Virginia couple who adopted a child born without a brain so that he would know the love of a family before he died, I know with great certainty that there are hearts and homes for children with special needs, no matter the severity.”

These 400 is a national campaign. The plan is to use Bethany’s network of national branch offices spread across 36 states to recruit families with experience in caring for children with disabilities, Nitz said. Grammy-winning Christian music artist Steven Curtis Chapman will promote the campaign on his nationwide tour, The Glorious Unfolding.

In Michigan, Bethany has branches in Grand Rapids, Holland, Fremont, Kalamazoo, Madison Heights and Traverse City, Nitz said.

“Given the Grand Rapids community track record for providing critical support to those in crisis, including vulnerable children, we believe that a number of local families will step forward to love and care for these special children,” he said. “We also believe this campaign has the capacity to expand our local community’s ability to give and care for some of our world’s most vulnerable children.”

The campaign will be quite pricey for Bethany.

“Between our intent of underwriting approximately $10,000 of the adoption and country costs for a majority of the children adopted through These 400, and the marketing costs over this year and next, we are anticipating costs in the range of $3.3 million to $3.5 million for this campaign,” Nitz said. 

The longer-term purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness of the many children internationally with special placement needs who linger in orphanages, he said. Without a family to adopt them, such children will age out of the orphanage system between age 15 and 17, and have minimal support to care for themselves.

“Most live on the streets, engage in either various forms of crime, are incarcerated, and/or experience substance abuse,” Nitz said. “Moreover, the suicide rate among these emancipated youths with no families to support and care for them is very high. But, with the permanence of an adoptive family, outcomes are very different, and children have much better chances to become self-sufficient and productive members of society.”

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