One Child at a Time
By Lindsay Krueger
When Beth (Schelske) Miller graduated in 2000 with a masters in social work degree, she had no idea that she would be “grooming babies for heaven.” But since 2004 Beth has served as agency director at Christian Family Adoptions, a nonprofit organization. Through her and her agency’s work, she is making a difference in the world—one child at a time.
How long has Christian Family Adoption been a service to parents wishing to adopt a child?
LeEllen Bradshaw officially founded Adventist Adoption and Family Services back in 1958. It is presently known as Christian Family Adoptions.
What is the mission of CFA?
As LeEllen would say, she began this ministry as a way of “grooming babies for heaven.” Since that time we have continued to follow our mission to influence the world for Christ—one needy child at a time. Our goal is to do this through what we believe to be God’s model of adoption.
And what is God’s model of adoption?
Well, Ephesians 1:5 says that, “in love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will ….” When we needed a Heavenly Parent—when we needed an eternal home—God adopted us through Jesus. He didn’t abandon us, but in love drew us to Him.
How did you happen to get involved with this agency?
My good friend Juline (Schultz) Bodnar, who graduated from WWU in 1999, was the director before me. When a position opened in 2001, she asked if I would interview for it. She knew that I came from a family with five adopted children! I’m the only child not adopted in my family. Juline felt that I would have firsthand experiences that would help those looking at the option of adoption. I got the job and worked for the agency for a very short time before my husband and I moved to Arkansas to serve at Ozark Adventist Academy for two years. When we returned, the agency had an opening for a part-time case worker, and I was hired. In 2004 when Juline retired and moved to Bend, Ore., I was interviewed for her position and promoted to agency director.
Does CFA limit its services to Adventist church members?
Absolutely not. CFA is owned by the North Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and is governed by an independent board of directors which reports to the NPUC. But we provide services to all denominations, as well as non-Christians. We feel this serves as a great role model to non-Adventists and the community at large. Those who might only know Adventists as people who go to church on Saturday and don’t eat meat can see that there’s much, much more to us than that!
Does CFA provide services for women facing unplanned pregnancies?
Yes. We counsel women and men in crisis, providing options for their pregnancy. Should a woman choose to place her baby for adoption, we also provide mediation for birth parents and the adoptive families to make contact. We are proud of the fact that we’re the only private agency in Oregon who handles DHS cases in this manner.
Back in 1958, the original purpose of AAFS as a formal adoption program was to provide an unplanned pregnancies counseling service to both expectant mothers and their families. The service was designed to help them review their options and choose a plan which would be beneficial to both the parents and their children. If adoption was chosen by the birth parents, AAFS made efforts to match the requests of the birth parents as closely as possible.
An additional offer was to provide services to families of older children with needs, and to assist in providing a permanent plan tailored to fit those individual needs. The agency has retained the early purpose as a basis for service, but has broadened its services to include consultation and referral for a variety of child welfare issues between parents and professionals. In addition, the agency now provides contractual services for public agencies in the field of child welfare.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love being able to pray with my staff as well as the families and birth parents of those we come in contact with. Social workers are typically advised not to discuss religion, yet in this agency, it’s a very open topic. On Monday mornings we have prayer for our cases and the agency. We begin all meetings with prayer, inviting God to lead us. Because of this deep and open relationship with God, we are given the privilege of witnessing His miracles on a daily—sometimes even hourly—basis.
An example happened recently, when I was introducing an adoptive family to the birth parent. I knew the history of both sides and what both the birth mother and adopting family had gone through to get to this point. The match was a perfect fit that no one on earth could have created. It was beautiful to witness how both sides surrounded the child with love and prayer, as they moved into the next phase of these four lives which were now entwined forever. It was also amazing to witness God’s grace in bringing the birth mother back in Himself. She viewed this unplanned pregnancy as the Lord waking her up and saving her from the destructive path she was on. I know of no other role in social work than this one, where all parties involved are thrilled with the outcome and feel they are finding the best solution to a very difficult problem. What an amazing blessing to work for this agency!
What tough times do you face in your job?
I hate to say this, but the hardest part of my job is stressing about finances. We provide our services below what it costs our agency to operate. We do this because we want to offer services to great families who have resources to raise a child, but may not have funds for the initial cost of adopting. Although we subsidize these expenses through private donations, these are often not enough. CFA has highly qualified staff with notoriety in the adoption community who are working at a lower rate of pay, simply because they believe in what they do. I would love to reimburse them the amount reflective of their qualifications and passion.
In spite of the financial stresses, what’s the greatest joy of your job?
The greatest joy of my job is introducing the adoptive parents to their new child. I find myself crying with joy and saying a prayer of thanks. I love seeing the story unfold from the beginning and watching as it develops over the years. So few have this luxury, and are only given a snapshot of events. On several occasions I have even helped bring babies into the world, and there is no greater miracle than that!
The greatest joy I find in my work is seeing the smiles on faces of kids and parents. I have numerous pictures of families—both birth parents and adoptive parents—who were so happy with the adoption. The kids smile because they know they’re loved by all their parents. The adoptive parents smile for many reasons. Maybe a child they have prayed and hoped for is finally theirs, possibly after years of loss. Perhaps they see their children growing into caring, funny little people, or they see improvement in a child who had a tough past. And even the birth parents smile, knowing that they’re choosing the best for their child. They know their future includes a loving home, food on the table, nice clothes, the possibility of attending college, and more.
What’s your best advice for parents who are looking into adoption?
I would say that they need to remain flexible to God’s leading in finding and placing His perfect child or children in their family. I have seen how families have changed their expectations in their adoption plan as they submit to the will of God. They actually find that His plan was much better suited for all involved.
Adoption can be a roller coaster of emotions. But when you allow Someone else who knows what’s best to be in charge, there’s less stress and sadness, and more relaxation and joy. Also, families need to remember that adoption—as with other life events—happens in God’s time. Those involved need to be patient and fill their waiting with preparations for the future.
What does CFS look forward to in the future?
So far we have found homes for more than 1,000 precious children. We want that number to grow! Also, this year we celebrate our organization’s 50th year. On Nov. 22, we’re hosting a banquet with an open invitation. The evening will be filled with fascinating stories of families who have adopted from our agency, as well as some who have been adopted. Coincidentally, November is National Adoption Month.
If a couple wants to adopt a child, or if someone wishes to support CFS, where can they find more information?
Online at christianfamilyadoptions.org/ or by calling (503) 232-1211. You can also RSVP to attend the anniversary banquet in November.
I’d also like to say that we need prayers. Right now there are more children needing adoption than there are families who can financially make this happen. Our goal is to find a home for every child we come in contact with.
Last update on September 23, 2008