International adoptions disrupted

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It, international adoption. 

COVID-19 has disrupted just about every aspect of life. Adoptive parents are not immune. Efforts to contain this  disease are causing significant disruptions in the adoption process. Think travel bans and quarantines.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Joining us now to talk about that is Chris Palusky. He’s president and CEO of Bethany Christian Services. It’s the largest evangelical adoption agency in the United States. Good morning, Chris.

CHRIS PALUSKY, GUEST: Hey, good morning to you.

REICHARD: How bad are these disruptions? And are they affecting both domestic and international adoptions?

PALUSKY: I think it’s affecting everything. So, with Bethany—Bethany’s involved in adoption domestic, international, foster care. We work with refugees and immigrants and we do in-country adoption, in-country foster care, and all of them are disrupted right now. It’s something like we’ve never seen before and, yeah, we’ve never seen anything like this before.

REICHARD: How many children and families are we talking about?

PALUSKY: You know, in the United States—so, we do international adoption and we’ve got a couple dozen families who have been waiting to be reunited or united with their adopted kids and there’s obviously a travel ban on places like China and other places around the globe. So we’ve got parents who are eagerly awaiting to be reunited or united with their forever child. We don’t have any end in sight right now. We’re still waiting to hear from the countries on when they can open up again and also from our own government about when it’s going to be safe to travel. That’s the big unknown right now.

REICHARD: No one knows exactly how long these restrictions on movement and gatherings are going to last. But life—we think, we hope, we believe—will return to normal eventually. Will these adoptions pick up where they left off?

PALUSKY: You know, we’re very hopeful that those international adoptions will happen quickly because with special placement need kids, they’re especially vulnerable right now. And so the sooner they can be reunited or united with their families, that’s what we want. But we want to make sure it’s done in a very safe way. We have been communicating with the parents and also with the governments of China and other countries around the globe to get the latest updates on those kids, and we know that they’re OK right now. Again, with the pandemic as it spreads, we want to make sure they’re in the best possible place ever, and we believe that would be with their forever family. So, yeah, that’s where we are. 

REICHARD: One last question. I understand your teams are also starting to see more refugees in the countries where you work. Is that related to COVID-19, and if so, why?

PALUSKY: You know, I wouldn’t say it’s directly related. What we have seen is that the world’s become a much more fragile place and with this new virus, it’s becoming even more fragile. So, we have been working in refugee camps providing foster care for kids across the globe. Right now, we’re in the largest refugee crisis the globe has ever seen. So, we have 71 million people displaced. Around 28 [million] of those are refugees. So, those are people who have been pushed out the borders of those countries, of their own countries. And the lion-share of those people are women, children, and the elderly. And they’re living in squalid conditions. They’re living in camps. They don’t have great access to water and sanitation like you and I do. So, they are especially vulnerable. So, Bethany wants to work with the most vulnerable out there and so working with refugees, working in refugee camps, and even with immigrants who are fleeing from Central America. We want to work with kids whenever possible because we find them to be the most vulnerable. So, is it directly related? Probably. Our world just suddenly became more vulnerable than we’ve ever seen it. That’s why we want to respond—in fact, we want to encourage people of faith to respond. It’s not a time to fear. It’s a time to give our worries to God and step up. So I want to encourage people to step up and get involved. And that could be doing something with your local church. It could be partnering with a local organization like Bethany or Food For the Hungry or lots of great organizations out there to help with local needs—foster care and adoption—or international needs with refugees and the crisis we’re facing.

REICHARD: Opportunities do exist—even now. Chris Palusky is president and CEO of Bethany Christian Services. Thanks for joining us today.

PALUSKY: Thank you so much.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya) This Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018 photo shows the Bethany Christian Services in Grand Rapids, Mich. Bethany is one of the nation’s largest adoption agencies. 

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