Protests as children separated from families at border now in Bethany Christian Services’ foster care

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Amid a constantly changing crisis, the administration's zero tolerance immigration policy is heart wrenching to people across party lines, as children from Central America and Mexico up until Wednesday were separated from their families crossing the Mexican border and put into detention centers and cages.

At least 81 children separated from their families at the border recently are now in foster care homes and group placements throughout Michigan, according to Dona Abbott, Bethany Christian Services' director of refugee and foster care programs. On Wednesday, protesters lined the sidewalks along Bethany's parking lot at 901 Eastern Ave NE. Many said they're concerned or livid and urged Bethany to stop accepting children who are separated from their parents at the border. They held signs that read, "No profit for kidnappers," and "End the contract."

"Sending kids all the way across the country from their parents as we strip them of their human and civil rights, and, as we know, that’s what’s happening. We can’t enable it," said Katy Steele Barone, organizer with Our Revolution GR and candidate for Kent County Commission. "Any action we take to help further this agenda makes us a part of the problem."

Abbott says Bethany is against this zero tolerance policy but will accept the children to provide services and care. "I don’t think children ever should be used as a way of making a point," she said.

When FOX 17 asked why is Bethany accepting the kids, Abbott said, in part, "Very fair question. It’s because we believe that these children will be separated. That’s a decision that has been made. Iit’s been announced the zero tolerance policy, and we believe children should be in family. If the government’s going to choose to do that, then children need to be protected and cared for."

It costs an adoptive parent at least $28,000 in nonrefundable fees to adopt a child from the U.S. from Bethany, According to Bethany’s 2016 domestic infant adoption fee schedule. Critics ask if Bethany is financially motivated to accept children separated at the border from their parents?

"I believe that Bethany is a privatized corporation that is making money off of every refugee that they take in," said Steele Barone. "And I believe that they’re going to reinvest that into their nonprofit corporation, which is in turn lobbying against things like LGBTQ rights to adopt and against us stopping separating families."

FOX 17 asked Abbott if Bethany is profiting off of any refugee children entering their care, she said, "We’re not. Again it would be hard to say we’re profiting off of them for adoption when we’ve not placed any of these children for adoption. And it’s so early on to say whether these children will be available for adoption at all."  Abbott said she could not speak to Bethany's adoption fees.

Meanwhile, the amended Michigan Child Care Licensing Act allows Bethany to deny services if a family conflicts with Bethany’s religious beliefs. For example, past Michigan cases show Bethany has worked against reunification or adoption to parents who were non-Christian, LGBTQ, or legal medical marijuana patients.

However, Abbott said the organization is working to reunite families of separated immigrant children. FOX 17 specifically asked if Bethany will work to reunify these refugee kids with their parents if their parents don’t meet Bethany’s religious standards, or if their parents are charged criminally or deported. "It is always our goal to reunite children and families," said Abbott. "It isn’t our intention to see these children placed for adoption or be permanently separated from their families."

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services officials tell FOX 17 only private agencies who contract through the federal government are accepting separated immigrant children in Michigan, including Bethany Christian Services and Samaritas.

Michigan Samaritas VP of Child and Family Services Lena Wilson tells FOX 17 her organization is not currently accepting children but fostered one child who was separated at the border but reunited that child with its family in May. Wilson says Samaritas made a proposal to the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement to foster up to 60 additional children who had been separated at the border, but Samaritas won't know until mid-July whether they will be permitted to do so.

This raises another question: What happens if these children cannot be reunited with their families? Abbott says Bethany is fostering children from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and few children from Mexico. According to the U.S. Department of State, these countries either do not currently allow adoptions with the U.S. or adoptions with the U.S. are rarely achieved. Will these children remain in foster care until they are 18 years old? That question has yet to be answered.

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  • DaMailman

    So the alternative would be to lock the kids up in prison with their parents. Is that what Bethany is advocating? It’s not a “policy”. It’s a law. It’s the president’s job to enforce the law. If the law needs changing it is up to Congress to do so.

  • Tired of Marxist indoctrination and Useful Idiots

    So, do the protesters want the kids locked up in adult holding facilities when their parents are facing criminal charges, or do that what what happened under Obama – placed with any one who claimed to be a relative with no proof (which included with the “extreme vetting” that Obama promised) to include child sexual predators and traffickers?

  • Lil Jimbo

    why not do like other other countries do when a surge of people cross their borders. Put them into refugee camps. Follow the model they use on The Colony tv show.

  • C

    DACA, the product of another Democrat strategy, created the problem, yet they and the media(as always) put the onus for a solution on the Republicans.

  • mamielle

    I just knew this plan would end up with kids being snapped up by evangelical churches. These people are stealing children to fill their pews and their heaven quotas. This is no different than when Indian children were stolen from their parents and put in Christian boarding schools to be abused and indoctrinated. Shame, shame, shame!!!

  • GGWG

    Why din’t liberals “care” when Obama did EXACTLY the same thing?
    How about Clinton? He passed the law.
    What a bunch of azzhats!

  • mrobmsu

    What is “Christian” about a private adoption agency that refuses to place children with potential adoptive parents if those parents don’t agree with Bethany’s “beliefs”? The primary characteristic for a successful parent/child relationship is love, not marriage status, religious affiliation, or sexual identity or orientation. This outfit should be made to change their name from “Bethany Christian Services” to “Betsy DeVos’ Refugee Kid Store for Straight, White Evangelicals”.

  • rbeckley10

    The director says, “It’s so early on to say whether these children will be available for adoption at all.” Sounds like adoption was the plan for these kids all along.

  • ThreeGrandRapids

    This is a shameful piece of journalism. It tells half-truths, makes unfounded claims, twists peoples word, leaves out vital information to what is being discussed, and shows a lack of research on the issue by the writer. This is clearly only written to attract view counts.

    These people protesting and the only thing that can come from the author (and editor) putting out a piece of journalism like this is immigrant children and their families being in worse situations and children separated from their parents for longer times. The things that these protestors supposedly say they support.

    I am someone do foster care through Bethany with this program and would like to help people understand the truth. First, the government snatched these children from their parents. What Bethany does in no way encourages this or supports this. The children had already been taken from their parents.
    If Bethany were to not take these kids into foster care they would have gone to large facilities with many children in them, where they cannot receive the caring love of a family. In those facilities they will not receive the same level of professional education and counseling as they do with Bethany (I promise you), or have some of the best caseworkers that are able to wade through the bureaucratic/legal mess the government has created for these families and get the kids returned extremely quickly. These protestors would prefer Bethany send these kids to be taken care of by the government that ripped them from their parents or sent to large shelters for children rather than what I described above.

    Adoption has nothing to do with this. Every unaccompanied minor Bethany has ever cared for has gone to their family. None have been put up for adoption. Also, Bethany does not make money off of adoption. They are the entity that makes adoption possible (which happens to be a complicated lengthy process that costs money). They are non-profit and only use money they have provide the best services available anywhere to help refugees, orphans, immigrants, and other (yes, these things do cost money). Money donated to Bethany also goes only to these things. It’s really not very complicated.

    A great example (of many in this article) that this was only written to get clicks and that shows a lack of research or a basic understanding of this is issue by this reporter, editor, and Fox 17 is the question “if Bethany will work to reunify these refugee kids with their parents if their parents don’t meet Bethany’s religious standards, or if their parents are charged criminally or deported.” First of all, these are not refugees, they are immigrants and asylum seekers. Second, there is no such thing as “religious standards” for parents, obviously the government makes the guidelines for reunification not Bethany. Finally, literally all Bethany is doing is trying to reunite these children with their parents, that is the only reason they take these cases, because they are the best equipped to reunite them. The government decided to legally call these kids “unacompanied minors” even thought they came accompanied (by deciding to detain and prosecute their parents). Bethany did not decide this, but they are the ones that care for these kids and try to get them out of the bad situations they’re in.
    Another example of simply unprofessional journalism is the question that ends the article. To ask a question that holds zero factual weight and that, if Fox 17 thought was legitmate, maybe should have been asked to the people it was written about is shameful. Almost all of these children have been reunited with their families. The few left that will be reunited soon are only in this positioin becasue of decisions the federal government made that Bethany is fighting against.
    It is very disheartening for myself, who cares so deeply about these children, asylum seekers, and immigrants to see these protestors, this journalist, and Fox 17 fighting against the organization trying to help these people and making false statements that put these children in harms way.

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