18-year-old Holly has been in Orange County foster care since
1998. She was removed from her home after allegations against her mother
for failure to protect, serious emotional damage, sexual abuse, and living in
unsanitary and unhealthy conditions. Reunifying with her mom was ruled out many
years ago due to Mom’s drug use and reckless parenting. Holly had sporadic
monitored phone calls and visits with her mom and has come to the realization
that it will never be a healthy and nurturing relationship. Holly’s CASA,
Joann, recognized that although Holly is 18 and had agreed to stay in the
system until she finished high school, she was lacking the strong and positive
family bonds she needed to help her succeed post-emancipation. Joann
spoke to Holly to see if she had interest in a search being conducted for her
biological father, whom she had never met before. Holly agreed to CASA
Family Connections doing a search, but was a little doubtful there would be any
success. Holly knew very little about her father and was only able to
contribute his first name, Michael, and the past descriptions from her mother
of her father being a “bad” and “mean” man.
CASA Family Connections immediately got to work on searching for
Holly’s paternal family. After reviewing her file it seemed like it may
be a lost cause. Social Services had tried numerous times in the past to
get in touch with Michael. According to records, contact was made once
before and it looked as though he had no interest in establishing a
relationship with his daughter.
After finding a date-of-birth for Michael things began to
snowball and an updated address and telephone number were found within a couple
days. Upon phone contact, Michael stated he had been waiting and praying
for this moment for a very long time. He had become a Reverend and was
now married with two young children living a healthy and positive life in Iowa.
Immediately Michael was very anxious to be given the opportunity to speak
with his long lost daughter. When asked about previous efforts by Social
Services to contact him – he stated he was only told there was a possibility of
Holly returning home to her mother, a woman whom Michael had briefly dated and
who suffered from psychotic episodes that Michael could not be a part of.
Michael admitted that he had made a mistake and should have fought harder
to protect the well being of his daughter.
Holly entered the CASA office again, less than two weeks since
her initial meeting with Family Connections and exclaimed to her CASA Case
Supervisor, “Did you hear? They found my Dad!”. Holly was clearly very
nervous, but with the support of her CASA she was able to muster up the courage
to begin a new chapter in her life. That day Holly was able to speak to
her father for the first time in her life!
Holly was given the opportunity to ask her father anything she
wished – which she took full advantage of. Questions ranged from the
blunt and serious, “Why did you leave me?” “Why didn’t you ever look for me?”
to the seemingly trivial “What kind of music do you listen to?” “Do you have
any animals?”. In a beautiful moment, Holly discovered that like her, her
father likes to write songs and sing – so they sang to one another songs they
had each written lyrics to.
Family Connections was able to fly out Dad and her Step-Mom a few weeks later
and you would have never imagined that they had never been a part of one
another’s lives for Holly’s whole existence. Holly’s Father and Step-Mom enjoyed
a great weekend together where they were able to connect and learn about one
another, as well as do some fun activities like bowling, going to the beach and
the aquarium, as well as meeting some of her teacher’s at school and kids and
staff members at Holly’s group home.
wasn’t too long after the visit that Holly decided she wanted to go to Iowa
herself and see what it would possibly be like to live with her newly found
Dad. CASA Family Connections planned a trip for Holly to fly out during her
spring break in March of 2012 and spend a week there. Again, it was a beautiful
weekend, where Holly was able to meet her Grandmother, Great-Grandmother, her
two younger half-siblings, as well as numerous members of their congregation
who were extremely excited to meet her. Holly later told us that she felt very
much at home – for the first time in her life.
and her Social Worker decided a week after she had come back from the trip that
she would like to move to Iowa and live with her family once she finished high
school and emancipated. Her father, Michael, was absolutely thrilled that she
had made this decision. Holly graduated in June and again CASA Family
Connections was able to fly her father and stepmother out to be part of the
celebrations in Orange County. Best of all – Holly was able to fly home with
them, back to Iowa, two days later!
has since got a job in Iowa and enrolled to begin taking classes at a technical
school in Iowa. Holly is excited to be spending her first Thanksgiving and Christmas
with her new family and her new home!
volunteers from CASA-OC Family Connections made it possible for Holly to find
her family – through things as simple as searching on Facebook. You can make a
lasting impact in a child’s life as well and help move them closer to a
permanent family by joining the CASA program. Learn more here, or attend the next information session on May 2nd.
Email us at email@example.com.
Ariana Crary plays soccer, works hard in school, and goes to
church with her family. She is an average thirteen-year-old girl, and this past
summer she chose to go with her family to Rwanda to serve on an Orphan Care
During her time in Rwanda, Ariana learned about the plight
of vulnerable kids her age who live half way around the world from her, and she
learned that her life can have a global impact.
“It was very moving,” she says. “When we went to the
Genocide museum and it made me realize what these survivors really went through
and how so many kids were orphaned Then the first orphanage we visited was for
special needs kids. I couldn’t imagine living there, but the kids were
delighted to see us and play with us.”
Ariana and her family experienced stories of lives changed
first-hand, going on home visits to families that had recently adopted children
from the orphanage.
“In the home visit that I went to, a girl was reunited with
her uncle. I was inspired by the way she described the differences between living
in an orphanage and a family.”
Over the course of the trip, the Crary family saw their family
grow closer as their lives changed together.
“Going to Rwanda has changed my life,” says Ariana. “Through
my trip to Africa, I became exposed to the harshness of reality people have to deal with. It inspires me to help. I think this trip’s
experiences and its impact will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
Her mother, Brenda, states “One of the most fulfilling parts
of the trip for me was to see my kids step up and into their role to serve
others, no matter what it took. It was by far the best family trip I have ever
been on with my children. It brought us closer as a family and we’ll forever
have the memories of Rwanda.”
If you and your family are interested in an Orphan Care PEACE
trip to Rwanda, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
or call the Orphan Care line at 949-609-8555 for more information.
Rwandan newspaper The New Times (Kigali) wrote the following article chronicling the
country's decision to empty all their orphanages and place children into
families. The article features Mary Kamanzi, who heads up the Orphan Care
efforts for the PEACE Plan in Rwanda. Read the full article
online or check out the except below:
on a visit to Nyungwe National Park, I found a group of children milling along
the road. Some appeared as if they were playing while waiting for their parents
tilling a nearby garden. But the children, the oldest being about six, were on
a mission to beg.
confirmed this when Darmascene Byukusenge paused to ask: "Wampaye ijana
nkagurira umwana irindazi," (Please, give me Rwf100 so I can buy my
younger brother a cake.)
and his brother are not alone in destitute life and it is their plight that the
government is addressing through on-going efforts to reform child care policies
and programme in the country.
the new reforms, the government is refocusing the system by transforming
Rwanda's current child care and protection into family-based system. The aim is
to support vulnerable families to remain together and promote positive Rwandan
social values that encourage all Rwandans and their communities to take care of
vulnerable children, through fostering or adoption.
reform also states that children living in institutions should be integrated
into foster families or alternative family-based care systems as opposed to
Nyiramatama, the executive secretary of the National Commission for Children
(NCC), says child care reforms are not only meant to encourage fostering and
adopting in Rwandan society but also to emphasize "Rwandan identity in
these unlucky children and break adverse stronghold in their lives."
added that children not only need material care but psychological care that she
describes as software-care. It is this type of care that enables them to grow
well and become responsible citizens.
a child to become a responsible citizen, they need software-care much more than
hardware-care. Food, clothing and shelter are good for a child but beyond that
(is the need for) affection and sense of belonging that determine a child's
character and personality. This is what every child needs and it's hard to find
affection in an orphanage," she added.
National Population Office estimates that pregnancies as consequences of sexual
abuse during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi resulted in the birth of
children who bring back bad memories. There is also a problem of abandoned
children due to mass displacements during the same period - all resulting in
over 3,000 of unwanted and abandoned children. The
main challenge therefore remains rebuilding lives of these children and
providing them with good health facilities.
to Nyiramatama, over 1,000 children have since been integrated into family life.
Able families are being encouraged to embrace adoption and fostering policy to
give vulnerable children a chance to grow up in family life.
church has bought into the idea and has come out to promote the new policy as
it starts to see family care as a right to life; suggesting that every child
should belong to a family not an orphanage.
May 2013, the ministry of gender and family promotion in conjunction with Peace
Plan Rwanda - an umbrella organisation that brings together all religious leaders
- organised a consultative meeting to discuss the draft family policy.
religious leaders called for stronger families with good moral values as the
best environment for children to grow in. The emphasis was to promote child
care reform by encouraging Christian families to adopt or foster street
children or those from orphanages.
to Mary Kamanzi, the director of family and child care unit in Peace Plan
Rwanda, this policy is aimed at preventing future child neglect and design
appropriate preventive mechanisms for teenage pregnancies and other resultant
Peace Plan Rwanda, we are committed to supporting and helping these children to
grow well - psychologically, physically and emotionally. We hope that
encouraging Christians to adopt or foster orphans will give these unlucky
children a taste of home and a sense of family-belonging," Kamanzi said.
You can be a part of
helping local churches get children in Rwanda get out of orphanages and into
families on an Orphan Care PEACE trip. Email email@example.com for more
Did you know that for $38 a month, you can change a child’s
program provides hope for children in orphanages by
sponsoring families who need a bit of financial support to bring a child into
their home. When orphans gain a family they become permanent sons and
Listen here to Kay Warren’s message on how you can get
Hi I’m Kay Warren. I’d
like to tell you about a new kind of child sponsorship. Children need the love
of a family, which is why we’re working in Rwanda to help them empty all their
orphanages and place those children into permanent caring families.
Of the 3000 children
in orphanages, 1200 now have families to call their own. There’s still more to
be done. You can help empty orphanages by sponsoring a family in Rwanda,
helping a child reunite with or regain a family.
Sponsorship helps a
family provide school feels, food, clothes, and health insurance for the child.
You can learn more at saddleback.com/sponsorship. When you sponsor you are
helping an orphan become a son or a daughter again.
To begin sponsoring a
family in Rwanda visit
Mike and Brenda Crary are ordinary Saddleback Church members
who responded to Pastor Rick’s challenge to step out in faith by going on an
Orphan Care trip to Rwanda in the summer of 2014. They decided to bring their
entire family, and together through Saddleback’s Orphan Care Initiative they
learned how to help equip local churches to empty orphanages. They thought they
knew what was in store for them, but as often happens on a PEACE trip, God used
them in a way they never expected.
As part of their home visits made with local church members,
Mike and Brenda stopped by to check in on a family prior to their reunification
with their 17-year-old daughter. This family had placed their daughter in the
orphanage long ago thinking it would be the best place for her. It wasn’t until
they heard from their local church about the harm caused by institutional care
that they decided to reunite.
The mother, Mama Evette, was tending to newborn twins as she
waited with anticipation for her daughter to return home from the orphanage for
good. As the Crarys held the newborns and chatted with the family, they learned
that Mama Evette was a genocide survivor who had given her life to Christ at a
local church sometime after the genocide. Soon after, she married her
ex-boyfriend when he gave his life to Christ. They had recently had the twins
whom the Crarys were now admiring.
Noticing the babies’ strong startle response, Mike shared
how all babies have the inborn reflex to raise their hands when they feel the
sensation of falling. Mama Evette was astounded. She told the Crarys how she
had been praying about this behavior and was deeply worried her babies were
experiencing demonic attack. Friends had even visited and advised Mama Evette
to take her baby to the witch doctor for treatment. But in faith, Mama Evette
had refused to go because she was now a believer in Jesus.
Brenda further explained how premature babies exhibit the
behavior more frequently because their developing nervous systems are highly
sensitive. Mama Evette confirmed that the twins were born prematurely. Excitement
filled the room as this mother realized both her babies were healthy and
growing normally. God had listened to Mama Evette’s prayers and responded by
granting her the reassurance she craved through the Crarys’ visit.
God could have chosen anyone to answer Mama Evette’s
prayers, yet He orchestrated that the Crarys would travel to Rwanda to be the
vehicle of his love. It didn’t take any
special skills – just knowledge they already had, training they received, and a
willingness to say “yes” to God. Because the Crary family had the faith to go,
God used them in the lives of Mama Evette and her babies.
If you are interested in joining Orphan Care on a PEACE trip
like Mike and Brenda, join us at the monthly PEACE night gathering on at 6pm in
Tent 3 on the 4th Saturday of every month, or contact us at
firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (949) 609-8555.