Adoption Agency: Major Increase in U.S. Interest in Orphans

The nation's largest adoption agency announced on Monday that it had the highest-ever increase in adoption placements for a half-year period in 2010.

Bethany Christian Services reported that the combined international and domestic adoption placement increased 26 percent over the six-month period of January to June compared to the same time period in 2009.

Intercountry adoption inquiries were ahead by over 5,000 requests the first half of this year compared to 2009, totaling an unprecedented 10,567. Meanwhile, there were 8,037 domestic infant adoption inquiries, which is also higher than in 2009.

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The 66-year-old ministry attributes the increased interest in adoption to the Haiti earthquake and to the promotion of adoption by prominent churches and ministries.

"We at Bethany feel like one of the major problems is the global orphan crisis. There are 163 million orphans worldwide," said Marc Andreas, vice president of marketing and communications at Bethany Christian Services, to The Christian Post on Tuesday. "That is just a staggering number."

"The only way to tackle such an enormous problem is family by family and church by church rising up and taking care of that crisis," he said.

In February after the Haiti earthquake, Bethany was involved in bringing 80 Haitian children, whose adoption processes began before the earthquake, to Miami. Of the 80 children, 58 were adopted through the Christian ministry while the others were placed with American families through other agencies.

Andreas, who has adopted two children from Haiti, shared that the local church is the hope for the global and local orphan crisis.

In Michigan, where Bethany is headquartered, there are nearly 6,000 children who live with foster families and need permanent homes, Andreas noted. The state of Michigan has more than 10,000 churches, so if just one family from more than half of the churches adopts a foster care child then this major social problem in Michigan would be solved.

It was with the understanding that churches needed to be more actively involved in the orphan crisis that Bethany made a strategic decision in 2007 to hire a full-time staff to create a program to reach out to congregations. The Champions for Children program recruits volunteers to be a liaison between Bethany and their local church to raise awareness about the global orphan crisis.

The program counts prominent churches, ministries and denominations such as Saddleback Church, Focus on the Family, Catalyst, and the Southern Baptist Convention as its supporters.

"It is our vision that every child has a loving family, so we are working to find new families and identify supportive local communities," said Bill Blacquiere, president and CEO at Bethany Christian Services, in a statement. "We all must contribute to take measurable and immediate action in order to find more families who can provide loving homes."

There are an average of 1,800 adoptions through Bethany each year.

Bethany Christian Services has more than 80 locations in 32 states and orphan care and other ministries in more than a dozen countries. Other services provided by Bethany include pregnancy counseling, family counseling, foster care programs, refugee services, and an infertility ministry called Stepping Stones.

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