Guatemala (MNN) — Why is foster care in Guatemala such a big deal?
“We see the issue of unaccompanied children moving into the U.S. [and] whatever we can do to have children remain in their families — it not only takes care of that child for a lifetime, but it is also working to things that are affecting our present-day society,” says Phil Brinkmeyer of Buckner International.
A USAID grant is helping Buckner keep vulnerable kids in safe families through a two-year program called “Fostering Hope Guatemala.”
Brinkmeyer says they are attempting to meet four objectives:
- Get 103 institutionalized children into foster families.
- Create a team of experts to manage the cases of vulnerable children.
- Train and equip Guatemala’s government to develop foster care programs.
- Develop a system to manage and track data on foster kids and families.
“Currently, in the Child Welfare Division (which we would call Child Protective Services here in the States), there’s actually not a database, a system, to track children efficiently through an electronic means,” shares Brinkmeyer.
Right now, the only option for kids who lack a safe home environment is a state-run orphanage or similar institution. By working with the government and building up Guatemala’s infrastructure to accommodate foster care, Buckner hopes to keep all children in a family environment.
“It’s sometimes difficult to work through bureaucracies,” Brinkmeyer observes. “But the Lord has opened doors with relationships in the Guatemalan government.”
Since September, Buckner has been able to sign agreements with four entities that are the Guatemalan equivalents of U.S. offices: Child Protective Services, the Children’s Bureau, Supreme Court, and Attorney General.
These agreements will help give “Fostering Hope Guatemala” legitimacy at a national level. In addition, Buckner is running a campaign that helps explain foster care and its benefits to communities throughout the country.
Churches and Christian families are another key demographic for Buckner.
“It’s an open opportunity to move Christians in Guatemala toward providing, and actually doing, what the Lord has instructed us all to do: take care of the orphan and the widow in the times of their distress,” says Brinkmeyer.
The kids Buckner is helping aren’t usually orphans in the sense that they’ve lost one or both parents. They are generally children who’ve been abandoned or are removed from their home because of abuse or neglect.
Find ways to get involved in Guatemala here. The best way you can help, Brinkmeyer says, is through prayer.
Pray for opportunities to share the Gospel through this program. Pray that Christian families will step up and share God’s love with vulnerable foster kids. Pray that the children helped through this program will find safe homes.
Visit Buckner’s profile page to learn more about their work around the world.