My involvement with issues surrounding maternal and child health began in 1997 when our oldest daughter, Emily, and I traveled to Haiti. It was my first time to visit a developing nation; I was heartbroken and challenged by what I saw and experienced. I will never forget walking the streets of Port-au-Prince, hand-in-hand with my daughter, and being approached by a Haitian mother with a young child on her hip. "Please, please, oh please," she begged me, "Please, take my child with you."
I believe her plea was one of loving desperation. Reflecting on the sacrifice his son's birthmother made in choosing to place her child for adoption, theologian Miroslav Volf writes, "She loved [my son] for his own sake, and therefore would rather suffer his absence if he flourished than enjoy his presence if he languished."
Mothers and their children should be able to remain together. It is a bond and relationship that is not easily broken. A mother wants to provide the very best for her child, and she will go to great lengths to do so. But, often due to circumstances beyond a woman's control, mothers around the world feel forced to make a decision between her child's wellbeing and her familial integrity. I can't imagine the anguish and heartbreak these women experience feeling incapable of fulfilling their desire to nurture and protect their own. I think of the women who birthed our three youngest daughters; I can't imagine feeling coerced, whether it be because of extreme poverty, oppressive sexism, or government regulations, to forever separate myself from my child.
Until that moment in 1997, paralyzing poverty and the subsequent issues rooted within were stories I heard about in the news. But on the streets of Port-au-Prince, I looked into the eyes of another mother, her narrative of anguish and helplessness abruptly interrupting mine. As a result of our trip to Haiti, a seed was planted in my heart that eventually grew into the non-profit we now call Show Hope.
Co-founded by Steven and me in 2003, Show Hope is a movement to care for orphans, restoring the hope of a family to orphans in distress around the world. Show Hope primarily does this by offering adoption aid financial grants that help give orphans forever families. Additionally, we provide care for particularly vulnerable orphans, those with physical and intellectual disabilities, through our Special Care Centers in China. Since its inception, Show Hope has helped provide forever homes through adoption aid grants for more than 4,500 orphans from more than fifty-two countries, including the US. In addition, more than 1,600 orphans with disabilities have received critically needed medical care through Show Hope's five Special Care Centers located in China.
I, along with Steven and the staff at Show Hope, believe that every child deserves a family. Since Show Hope's first day of operations, we have been committed to a certain hierarchy of best practices in caring for orphaned and vulnerable children, wherein preservation of the birth family remains of paramount importance. Show Hope uses the PRAY acronym to remind ourselves that adoption should be appropriately considered within the following spectrum of care: Preservation of families, Reunification of families, Adoption (we prefer in-country when possible and look to international adoption if a domestic placement is unlikely to occur), and Youth services such as foster care or community-based care.
As we work toward restoring the hope of a family to orphans in distress, there are very real issues we must address. Every new life begins and is cultivated within, amidst, and among that of a mother's. Science and psychology reveal to us that the health and well being of a mother is intimately linked to that of her baby. In a right and good narrative, mothers and their children remain together. Steven and I are excited that Christians are joining their voices together to address these issues through the work of Hope Through Healing Hand's Faith-Based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide. We anticipate, with great hope, a world where mothers loving their children "for their child's own sake" looks like a family remaining together forever.