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2003 PE Report

Americans find comfort in ‘nesting,’ but connecting is another matter (December 22, 2002)

Viewer discretion advised: Reality-based programs stoop to new low (December 15, 2002)

A/G among fastest growing faith groups (December 8, 2002)

Christians play crucial role in foster care (November 24, 2002)

A/G churches remember with outreaches (November 17, 2002)

Elderly face added woes from credit card debt (November 10, 2002)

PE Kidz News from BGMC (October 27, 2002)

Cyber-evangelists find innovative ways to share gospel (October 20, 2002)

Risks, stigma accompany wearing of tattoos (October 13, 2002)

Women lead on-campus ministries (September 29, 2002)

Tobacco, alcohol, gambling industries find underage Internet client base (September 22, 2002)

Marijuana, cocaine have abusive company: Ecstasy, meth and prescription painkillers (September 15, 2002)

September 11: A day that changed American Christians forever (September 8, 2002)

Congress, courts clash over Internet filtering issue (August 25, 2002)

People with disabilities bless churches (August 18, 2002)

Short-term youth binges can result in long-term habit (August 11, 2002)

Christians aim to preserve traditional marriage (July 28, 2002)

Payback time: Christian volunteers motivated to give back to community (July 21, 2002)

Urban training centers minister
to ever-growing population
(July 14, 2002)

E-mail rumors dupe multitudes, hurt credibility (June 30, 2002)

Not so innocent: PG-13 films increasingly push sex, language limits (June 23, 2002)

Skipping church: Why are some Americans staying home on Sunday? (June 16, 2002)

Fudge fellowship: Pastor's wife treats tavern clientele (June 9, 2002)

Persevering nomadic church finally reaches promised land (May 26, 2002)

Tragedy brings A/G church, community closer to God (May 19, 2002)

Couples find God's calling in adopting, raising children (May 12, 2002)

A/G chaplain ministers to women in maximum-security prison (April 28, 2002)

Youth center offers alternative to teens (April 21, 2002)

A week without television (April 14, 2002)

Technological know-how aids San Jose church outreach (March 31, 2002)

Cincinnati racial reconciliation brings inner peace to inner city (March 24, 2002)

District's fund-raising efforts aid pastors planting churches (March 17, 2002)

GED program an effective ministry (March 10, 2002)

Building relationshipis at heart of women's ministries outreach (February 24, 2002)

Single-minded devotion: Unmarried ranks offer ministry opportunities (February 17, 2002)

Bethany College honors black minister pioneer (February 10, 2002)

A/G quarterback wins Unitas Award (January 27, 2002)

Camp Melody plants song of love in boys' hearts (January 20, 2002)

Pastor breaks giving record after 10 days atop billboard (January 13, 2002)

2001 News Digest stories

2000 News Digest stories


Christians play crucial role in foster care

By John W. Kennedy (November 24, 2002)

Mike and Wyndy Buckner learned 25 years ago that they couldn’t bear children, but that didn’t prevent them from investing in the lives of little ones. Responding to a plea from a Christian agency, the Buckners agreed to serve as foster parents for a newborn. That first year, they cared for five additional foster infants.

Since then, the Buckners, who attend New River Assembly of God in Red Wing, Minn., have cared for 30 foster children in all. They have provided a home for babies of different ethnicities, preschoolers, adolescents and teenagers.

"It’s the most rewarding thing we’ve ever done," says Wyndy Buckner, 50. "God has planned for every baby that has come into our home."

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 556,000 children are in foster care across the United States, 47 percent of them in a home with a nonrelative. The median length of stay is 20 months. Eventually, 43 percent of foster care children are reunited with a parent or principal caretaker while 20 percent are adopted. The remaining children fall into several smaller categories, including long-term foster care, emancipation, and guardianship by relatives.

The most difficult part about being a foster parent, Buckner says, is having to relinquish the child. "You do it with a lot of love, but there are a lot of tears," she says. "We have to trust God is going to take the seeds of faith we planted and not let Satan snatch it."

Usually the Buckners keep a child for two to three months. They have cared for several "high-risk" children who have been sexually abused or addicted to drugs.

For nearly a decade the Buckners tried to adopt a foster child, but encountered obstacles. Once they couldn’t adopt a 4-year-old girl because they knew the mother. Another time a social worker mixed up paperwork and granted custody of two toddlers to another couple. The Buckners had an 18-month-old boy for nine months and had nearly finalized the adoption when they learned the birth mother wanted the child back. The mother, a former drug addict, reformed and attended college.

"We felt God told us if this mother had turned her life around this drastically to seek her child we should relinquish our rights," Buckner says. "We want what’s in the best interest of the child, and in this case the mother had to have the opportunity to have him back."

Ultimately, the Buckners adopted a son, Michael, now 12. And in August, the Buckners finalized the permanent foster care placement of four siblings: Jeffery, 8; Justice, 7; Joseph, 6; and Teanna, 4. "Originally they just needed emergency foster care for the weekend," says Buckner. Wyndy cares for the five children, all of them American Indian, while Mike works as a nuclear power plant trainer. The blonde, blue-eyed Wyndy, the child of an Indian mother and white father, grew up on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Buckner says she and her husband don’t distinguish between foster children and adopted children. "The goal is to provide a home that gives a child a feeling of stability and love," she says. "We’ve all been adopted into the family of God." Because of Wyndy and Mike’s involvement in foster care, Wyndy’s daughter from her first marriage, Connie Simmons, has adopted two children herself.

State-managed foster care programs in some states mandate that foster parents must provide birth control if a teen in their home requests it and they cannot force a child to attend church. State foster care regulations are likely to become more restrictive. For instance, in August, the California legislature passed a bill that would make foster parents submit to "sensitivity training" to better serve "gay, lesbian or transgendered" youth. Gov. Gray Davis vetoed the bill.

While foster parents must submit to laws, even a brief Christian influence can turn a child’s life around, according to Miriam Golden, founder and executive director of Koinonia Foster Homes, based in Loomis, Calif. Praying parents model behavior that many foster children have never witnessed, she notes. "Children will never come to know that their Heavenly Father loves them unless they enter a home where that is modeled," Golden says.

Koinonia Foster Homes, now in its 20th year, currently supervises 970 children. Golden, who attends a Foursquare Gospel church, recruits parents through churches, including dozens of A/G congregations. With 33 offices in California and Nevada, the private nonprofit faith-based Koinonia acts as a liaison between counties and prospective families, training the foster parents and placing the foster children. Orientation of foster parents takes about three months, and Koinonia workers do everything from teaching first aid to arranging for a criminal background check.

Golden, 64, says Christians are biblically mandated to care for strangers and youth. "If children don’t go into a Christian home they may go into a dysfunctional home that isn’t much different than the one from where they came," she says. "There may be opportunities to abuse drugs and alcohol."

Jack and Donna Cates, who attend Englewood Assembly of God in Independence, Mo., have no qualms about helping. Even before they married 36 years ago the couple decided to adopt no matter how many biological children they had. Their plans got sidetracked when they had three children in eight years. But after their 19-year-old son died in an auto accident in 1987 they contacted Highlands Child Placement Service in Kansas City, Mo. Highlands, which is under the auspices of the Assemblies of God Benevolences Department, is a residential maternity home for expectant mothers and has facilitated more than 600 adoptions.

"We wished we would have done it earlier," says Donna Cates, 54, a childcare provider. "We’ve enjoyed every minute of it." The Cateses have watched 64 foster babies in their home through Highlands, never more than one at a time. The newborns stay an average of three to six weeks with the family, until a permanent adoptive home is finalized. "A piece of our heart goes with them when they leave us, but we know they are going to be cared for and loved," Cates says. "We really bond with them, whether we have them for one day or six weeks."

The Cateses have adopted two children, Darcie and Scotty, both now 9. Scotty arrived at 3 days old, a foster child with a hole in his heart and a drug-addicted mother. As they do with all foster babies, the Cateses took Scotty forward for prayer the first Sunday he lived with them. At Scotty’s next medical appointment the doctor couldn’t even find a heart murmur, let alone a hole.

Susan Orr, associate commissioner of the U.S. Children’s Bureau, which oversees distribution of federal foster care funds, says while requirements vary from state to state, all potential foster parents must undergo training so that they understand issues of child abuse and neglect. Families also must provide a separate bedroom for the foster child, Orr says.

"We are certainly in need all across the United States of more families who are interested in becoming foster parents," Orr says. "A lot of foster parents fall in love with these children, and when the children become available they adopt them. Then the parents no longer are foster parents.

"There certainly is no better way for people of faith, if they believe God is calling them, to open up their home to a child in need," Orr says.

The Buckners remodeled their home to accommodate their enlarged family and may adopt again. "Our goal is to impact children eternally by teaching them the love of Jesus," Wyndy Buckner says. "Children aren’t a hindrance; they are a gift from God."


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