EASTON, Md., December 26, 2011 — Buckner International, a Texas-based organization has been working to help orphans, at-risk kids and others in need within U.S. borders and in 94 other countries.
Headquartered in Dallas, Buckner has been operating since 1879. It currently has a $100 million budget, derived through several strong revenue streams, such as endowment earnings, individual contributions, grants and reimbursement from state and federal programs.
The Red Thread spoke to Dr. Albert Reyes about some of the work Buckner is doing for family-less children here and abroad.
Adoption & Foster Care in the U.S.
Buckner has been facilitating adoptions since the 19th century and it continues to do that, working with women with unplanned pregnancies.
Additionally, Buckner works closely with the foster care system in the state of Texas, helping find permanent homes for foster care children who are eligible for adoption.
“We feel very fortunate that we are in a unique position to transform lives by helping waiting children find caring families,” Dr. Reyes says.
When Buckner started more than 100 years ago the founders could not have envisioned that its reach would extend around the globe. Today, the originally mission—serving humanity in need, especially orphans — has expanded to include myriad international programs.
Buckner supports orphans living in institutions by sending volunteers, resources and medicine, but for Reyes a more powerful way to impact children is to help transition kids from orphanages into homes. Helping local governments establish functional foster care programs has become a large part of Buckner’s work.
“Our philosophy is that a permanent family is the very best option, ” explains Dr. Reyes. “When that can’t happen, the next best thing is a foster care situation, be it at a relatives’ home or another responsible adults.”
Reyes points to the mounting studies that demonstrate the damage that is done, intellectually, physically and psychologically to children who spend their lives in institutions.
“We know that every year they are in institution, their prospects for a healthy life diminish,” he notes.
Assisting Families, Reducing Family-less Children
A growing focus of Buckner’s work is helping families in distress. The idea is that by keeping families strong and intact you will reduce the numbers of orphans and children relinquished to the foster care system.
“The idea is to focus of prevention; to get to the root of the problems before they blow up,” says Reyes. “We know is that strong families are critical to the safety and well-being of children.”
With that in mind Buckner has established Community Transformation Centers, where case workers in the poorest corners of the globe to assist families with everything from medical care to vocational training, working with regional partners to achieve the goals.
“We try to find out what a family’s problems are and then try to help solve them,” he explains. “And the same family might come in with one challenge and then later have another. We help point them in the right direction to get the help they need to be successful regardless of the issue.”
In the U.S.
Reyes had made a major commitment to the colonias, very poor communities that have sprung up along the U.S. – Mexico border. Here, about 400,000 families live in dire poverty, often with nothing more than wooden pallets for homes.
Most recently a major donation enabled Buckner to build five homes for five families. “These are modest A-frame houses, nothing fancy, but you have to see the face of a child who has never lived in a home at all find out that he’s got his own room,” Dr. Reyes said. All families are screened for programs like these, proving they have jobs and the ability to maintain the homes. “What we don’t want is to set people us for failure. It’s demoralizing to have one failure piled on top of another,” he notes. “We make sure they can succeed.”
Another program that Buckner has found to be particularly successful in keeping children in safe family settings is called The Family Place. Buckner has set up five campuses across Texas for abused women and their children. This isn’t a shelter. In fact, shelters recommend the women to the program once they are ready to move on with their lives.
The Family Place gives women who agree to complete at least a two-year Associate Degree program, a place to live with their children, as well as counseling to keep them from falling back into old habits and to assist them in this transition in their lives.
“Many of the women go on to get their bachelors, some even PhD’s,” notes Reyes. “They push the reset buttons of their lives and on their children’s. These are kids that would have gone into the foster care system if their mother’s had not changed their living situations.”
There are many ways you can help Buckner International continue to help vulnerable children from donating money to lending your expertise (be it building, teaching, dentistry, etc.)—To organizing a shoe drive for orphans. Visit Buckner.org to learn more.
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