The ‘Faith-Based’ Plan for Separated Immigrant Children

The Trump administration continues to assert they have no plan for reuniting children separated from their parents at the U.S. border with their families but they do have a plan.

Upon hearing the children were being transported to various states, I wondered if there were any children shipped to my state. I spoke with my wife about finding an organization that needed families to temporarily house children until they can be reunited with their families. I didn’t realize how naive this was until I contacted Bethany Christian Services.

Bethany Christian Services (BCS) is based out of Michigan but they have an office near me in Maryland. I spoke with Rebecca. I was told they temporarily place children with foster families until a sponsor is identified by a case worker. The case worker finds a family member currently in country to place the child with until they are reunited with their families.

After looking more into the organization, I learned BCS is an extreme right wing Christian organization. For years they have placed immigrant children with adoptive families. They profit from these adoptions and have been lobbying the administration for more children to place.

Evangelicals revived international adoptions beginning in 2009 after Russell Moore, dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote the book Adopted for Life. Moore later called on 16 million Southern Baptists to begin supporting international adoption and orphan care. What followed, was a surge in evangelical adoptions leading to a 13% increase in adoption placements by BCS. That number grew, in part, due to the 2010 Haiti earthquake which served as a boon for evangelical adoption.

In 2010, Laura Silsby and nine other Southern Baptist members were convicted of attempting to transport 33 children they identified as orphans to a ‘to be built orphanage’ in the Dominican Republic for adoption. The children were not orphans. Many of the children were taken from existing families.

In 2015, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation donated money to BCS, who were in the process of lobbying for the passage of the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The RFRA allowed adoption agencies to claim religious exemption from having to serve LGBTQIA couples. The organization reserves the right to provide services to anyone who does not align with their religious values. Those religious values happen to be extreme right-wing evangelical values. If an organization like BCS designates illegal immigration as an issue that does not align with their religious values, they believe they are within their rights not to return those children to their families, paving the way for adoption by other families.

Fox affiliate in Michigan reports: “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.”

BCS Director, Dona Abbott claims Bethany does not support the zero tolerance policy but will accept and provide care for children separated from their families. This care is in the form of adoption services. BCS reports making between $20,000 and $40,000 in fees per child adopted. The organization seems to be one of many.

This suggests the reason these children are being shipped around the country is not for detainment in other facilities. It is an effort to funnel them into the adoption pipeline so companies like BCS can monetize this suffering.

There is no plan to reunite them with their families. The government is not tracking information that would be helpful to reunite them because tracking where these children came from is unnecessary if the plan is to place them with adoptive parents.

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