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PERSPECTIVES ON BUCKNER | ALBERT L. REYES ‘All orphan children’ I


t is etched in stone – literally. When R.C. Buckner died in 1919, he was laid to rest in Grove Hill Cemetery in East Dallas. If you visit that gravesite today, you will see where members of the ex- tended Buckner family are buried. Standing over the family’s burial plot is a granite stone with a relief image of Father Buckner holding a child. Emblazoned on the stone are these words: “Not one orphan child, but all orphan children.” Throughout the 136-year history of Buckner International, there have been times when the ministry reached beyond itself to care for vulnerable children and families. At times, that reach was local, at times regional and in a few cases, it was international. But the defining issue, regardless of the geographical reach, has also been need. The constant thread woven throughout our history is our willingness to respond to the current needs of children, families and senior adults. So it was no surprise 20 years ago when, under the leadership of my predecessor Ken Hall, Buckner launched into interna- tional work. It started in Eastern Europe on the heels of the collapse of communism and socialism. As the walls came down, it became apparent countries that lived for decades under faulty economic and social structures were in desperate need. Not surprising is the fact that in places


like Russia and Romania, children were suffering the most. A lesson of history is children are often the first to suffer and last to recover. Buckner entered international work officially in 1995. What we found were places eager to learn from our years of experience of caring for large numbers of children in institutional settings. In other words, our friends in places like Russia and Romania needed help raising orphans in orphanages. Up to that point, children were basically being warehoused until they turned 18 then turned out on the streets to fend for themselves. Buckner entered international work more as an exporter than


importer. We were exporting our expertise and our ideas. We were also engaged in international adoption from Russia starting in 1995. But the Buckner team 20 years ago realized immediately inter- country adoption could not be the solution for improving the lives of more than 1 million children. They also came to the conclusion that improving orphanages was not the only solution.


While Buckner has spent the past 20 years finding and implement- ing ways to improve orphanages, we have concentrated more of our efforts on emptying orphanages. We believe children belong in families, not institutions built with cinder blocks. We believe rais- ing a child in an institutional setting is actually a hindrance to that child; God created families as the only “institution” in which children should be raised. We also understand that’s not always possible in many settings, so we remain committed to assisting other nations in improving orphanages and children’s homes where needed. Ultimately, our goal, both domestically and internationally, is to move children into permanent family environments as soon as possible. To accomplish that goal, we have instituted programs such as foster and kinship care into many countries where we work. We have developed ministries such as the Buckner Family Hope Center to strengthen existing families so they remain intact. We have seen great success, as families across the globe have embraced this vision. So what’s next? What will the next 20 years of international work at Buckner look like? We remain open to responding where there is need, but we are also committed to moving on when the needs are met to the best of our abilities. While we are dedi- cated to long-term solutions for children, we are also dedicated to empowering local


governments, churches and individuals to deliver those solutions. One area we believe offers great promise for children is our plan of developing and expanding in-country adoption programs. We have seen tremendous success in places like Kenya (story on page 26), as Kenyan families have stepped up to adopt Kenyan children, providing forever families for those children – the ultimate permanent solution. One thing we know from history – regardless of where needs may arise geographically, children will always need a place to call home, a place we call family.


Albert L. Reyes, President and CEO Buckner International Visit my blog at www.bucknerprez.com


4 Buckner Today • FALL 2015 ISSUE


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