Peru (MNN) — The Bible urges us to take care of the sojourner and widow, and to treat them justly. Along with those two groups, the Bible spends a lot of time urging for justice to be done for the orphans and fatherless.
Right now in Peru, there are over 10,000 kids in government care institutions.
Many of the orphaned children, once at an institution, stay there for years until they age out at 18. After that, the children either have to return to the dangerous setting that they were rescued out of, or go to the streets. Until recently, foster care was not an option.
Since 2007, Buckner International has been fighting for a foster care system in Peru. The first group of children was put into their pilot program in March of 2008. The results in the children’s lives since then have been tremendous.
The children were able to fully develop in a healthy family setting. Foster care was the appropriate solution.
Yet one problem remained: no legal support existed for foster care. The director of Buckner Peru Director, Claudia Leon Vergara, says, “Having a law is really important for us because so far, getting each child in foster families has been such hard work.” What Buckner really wanted to do was change the entire support system for vulnerable children in Peru to protect them from being underdeveloped and having to go back to dangerous conditions.
On December 5, Peru’s legislators voted unanimously to add foster care to their official legal code. The law will take hold in January.
The new law will help secure all of the work that Buckner has been doing the last several years. The potential for a child to get into a foster family will improve, and the children’s rights will be better protected.
It’s been a long road to get to this point, but Leon has already been reminded why she is doing it: “The families are really lovely ones, [and] they really care for the kids. It’s amazing when you see the changes when [the children] join the program and where they are right now. It’s amazing. It makes me feel like everything we do is more than worth it.”
So far, 44 kids have gone through the program, and around 20 are in the program right now. Thanks to Buckner, they were able to spend Christmas with family instead of in the institution.
To prove to the government that foster care was needed was the first problem Buckner encountered when they began their work. “In Peru, we didn’t have foster care at all. So it’s been really hard for us because, here you are, trying to offer something that is a better way to care for the children, but the government doesn’t even see the problem of sending kids to the institution,” says Leon.
Buckner had to get the attention and approval of the government so that they would no longer ignore the absence of a foster care program. “The first thing I will say we have managed is to put the rights of the children to live in families in the public agenda.” They did this by beginning their pilot program. It was obvious how different it was for the children in families as opposed to those in institutional care.
Before Leon began promoting foster care, Latin America was not familiar with the concept, and many assumed that foster care would not work with the various cultures. But in 2007, the attitudes began shifting. Since then, Leon has done training for foster care in Argentina, Honduras, Guatemala, Guyana, and most recently, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Mexico.
If you’re wondering how you might get involved in speeding up the process, click here. As for prayer, Leon says, “We would love you to pray that we can keep growing with the program, [and] that we can find lovely families that want to join the program.” She hopes that the program will continue to progress so that they will begin to make a dent in the 10,000 children who are yet institutionalized.