A few days ago I posted somewhere—Twitter, I think—that I would write up a review of the online fundraiser that Bethany Christian Services was throwing on October 20, under its new brand, Family Changes Everything. I figured it would be a quick pithy project and began writing the morning after. I got this far:
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.
Being a self-loathing adoptee (see previous blog) I took the bullet so you didn’t have to. On October 20 I sat through the antsy live online broadcast of Bethany Christian Services fundraiser: Family Changes Everything. In case my review isn’t enough for you, you can now view it at your leisure in the comfort of your own home here. Curiously, the live -version intro, which featured a romantic soft focus visual of a very prego person rubbing her very prego tummy while abortion stats scrawled down the screen has been erased, replaced with romantic soft focus multi-racial visuals of hair-braiding, swing pushing, merry go-rounding, kissy-facing, beach romping, and the inevitable disaster adoption heart-breaker exemplified by Covid and “refugees”with nary a sign of kids in cages. Bethany was not only raising money but recruiting white saviors, and black and brown potential first and adoptive parents into their fold.
and then…I had what I can only call a panic attack. I write a lot, and this has never happened to me. Sure, I procrastinate. Sure, I dick around with my work sometimes. Sure, I have a lot of blogs I never finish. Sure, sometimes I hate what I write. But this was something different. It felt like a potassium crash. Deep, dark, sudden, brooding depression. And all over a freaking telethon?
Perhaps it was the praise music that ear-worms its way into your head for days afterward. Perhaps it was the slick optics. Perhaps it was the vapidity, the sheer sugary agitprop that politicized adoptees recognize. Perhaps it was the feeling that I was in the midst of a slippery corpo revival meeting a la Joel Osteen or Rod Parsley. Perhaps it was the shiny sureness that God created Bethany to complete His plan for us:
- God created families
- God created adoption.
- God merged the two in order to bring praise and glory to Him…
…and what better way to accomplish that than to dredge the children of the “less fortunate” into your own personal trawl net.
Then, perhaps it was the whole transactional motif of reciprocity and redemption, including the free NIV Our Family Bible Story published by webcast co-sponsor Zondervan Bibles that I’d get if I were among the first 200 to donate $150 or more via text (Retail $59.99). According to Zondervan’s rep and Bethany adoptee, Melinda Bouma, the publisher “reimagined, the family Bible for today’s generation of parents crafting intentional ways to bring the family together while reading God’s word.” If I were in the market for someone’s kid, I’d run like hell from this
Hallmark Hellmark moment. Hells Bells! Even the loathsome Gladney folks don’t dip into that swamp.
After recovering from my Bethany Blues I decided to take my review in a different direction. Two directions, actually. You are reading Part One. Part Two, Trembling at the Voice of God. based mostly on the keynote talk by evangelist Francis Chan, examines in more detail,Bethany’s message of evangelical adoption. I hope to finish Part Two next week.
Money Changes Everything
I am going to skip over “Crowder”—that is, praise singer David Crowder. He wears a ZZ Top beard without the charm. It must do wonders for his sex life. I bet he never does the family laundry. And, I am going to skip over Grammy-winning Christian rapper Lacrae. He struck me as too good for the Christian market or at least Bethany’s bullshit. And I will mostly skip over details of Bethany’s spiel on its new-but-not-so-new mission focus: assisting women and their families in faraway places with strange-sounding names to preserve their families from orphan and adoption mills with things like Bethany-sponsored childcare, healthcare, microloans, vocational training, employment assistance, anti-trafficking initiatives, and refugee resettlement. Watching this travelogue you’d think that Bethany actually cares about family preservation.
Does anyone really believe that Bethany has switched out its 70+ year history of coerced birth and relinquishment, promotion of secret adoption, sealed birth certificates and adoption records lobbying, and overt adopteephobia for a beefed-up “global family care” mission? The “global mission” simply tugs at heartstrings of prayer warriors and the pursestrings of donors while it keeps the agency’s raison d’ etre--adoption and child profiteering– running in the background.
The truth is that Bethany and the traditional adoption industry as a whole are in deep trouble due to the withdrawal of healthy white infant moneymakers from the market and the crash of international adoption, Recently, in fact, to staunch the cash bleed-out, Bethany announced that it has closed down its international placement program in favor of overseas in-country care and adoption placement. Now they are hit hard by Covid-19, ostensibly a big reason for the fund launch webcast.
What is really happening is that since the 1990s, Bethany has been divesting itself (or been divested) of its newborn adoption portfolio and has become invested heavily in US taxpayer-funded long-term care programs and other new streams of “child welfare,” “family preservation,” and “humanitarian” projects to keep the adoption scenario running. inside and outside the US,
If those altruistic female empowerment schemes don’t work, there is always in-country adoption. Instead of sending product off to bourgeois Christian Americans for name, identity, cultural cleansing, and profit, the ragtags and strays can now stay in their own countries under local Bethany-created foster and adoption partnerships similar to the ones they set up in Romania in the 1990s that became not much more than baby farms. Children would just have new identities and different caretakers and parents who would hopefully possess the evangelistic attitude preferred by Bethany and a respectable bank account to prove it.
The Grift is In
Bethany cries that it is leaking cash, and needs fresh funds to maintain and sustain its new-but-not-so-new refugee, female empowerment, long-term care programs, and humanitarian work. Its own financial records tell a different story. According to figures from its own 2019 Annual Report as well as information located in the ProPublica database, and on Guidestar (free registration required, it can well afford to send reparation checks to all the adoptees it has run through its magic anonymizer.
Domestically, Bethany receives a booming amount funds for its foster care, immigrant resettlement, and unaccompanied family reunification programs through the largess of state and federal government programs and grants. It also receives substantial contributions from private contributors, including wealthy, politically influential donors.
In 2018 Bethany placed about 100 border kids in foster homes it administers in its Michigan home base as well as in Pennsylvania and Michigan. The service is contracted through the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement News reports say that the agency is paid anywhere from $200 to an unsubstantiated $800 per night for each child. (If that high number is documented, please let me know.) The money goes for food, shelter, supplies, and therapy. According to Rewire, the children under Bethany control do not attend public schools but go to a “special school” operated by the agency. Bethany.claimed in June 2018 press release that about 90% of the children in its care had been reunited with their parents, but I have found no credible documentation to back that up.
Bethany, a prominent “pro-life advocate” also has received, $500,000 as a participant in the federal Family & Youth Services Bureau’s Sexual Risk Avoidance Education Program, an abstinence-only program that targets Latinix and Black youths ages 14-19. When Mike Pence was governor of Indiana he shifted funds intended to assist low-income families over to privately run crisis pregnancy centers organized under the umbrella of Real Alternatives Pregnancy Support Services which subcontracted Bethany and other anti-abortion services.
- Sidebar: In 2016 Bethany admitted that it has utilized a network of “crisis pregnancies centers,” that uses a digital marketing system known as mobile geo-fencing, marketed to the agency by Copley Advertising, The system pings ads to the smartphones of women visiting abortion facilities to discourage them from seeking abortions and to consider adoption. The system has the ability to relay the names and addresses of targeted women and abortin providers; thus is a security risk for both.
If and when the Trump Executive Order Strengthening the Child Welfare System for America’s Children, which privileges “Christian” agencies over secular, is implemented, Bethany is set to benefit even more financially As a “Christian” agency it will get a nice cut of new Trump funds, to maintain and increase its domestic adoption and foster programs as well as what they euphemistically call “refugee children- programs for children and even infants confiscated at the US-Mexican border, separated from their parent(s) or other family member(s) and dispersed to strangers throughout the US– unless they are thrown into cages at ICE-operated concentration camps.
October 20, the day of Bethany’s online fundraiser, NBC, and other news organizations across the country reported that lawyers cannot locate the parents of 545 children held in the “child refugee” system. The ACLU, which is handling their cases, says two-thirds of their parents were deported to Central America before they could be reunited with their children. I am not saying that Bethany is hiding children from their parents, but it is clear that if parents cannot be located the children will end up eventually in the American long-term foster and adoption systems, which Bethany and other agencies are chomping to expand. (Holt and Gladney are probably in the running). Last year Bethany denied that any children in its care had been placed on the adoption market and declared it “will not rest until every separated child in Bethany’s care is safely reunitied with family.
DeVos Money Pit
Although it has been highly critical (and just yesterday here) of the draconian Trump-Miller zero toleration policy on family separation and child confiscation at the border, Bethany maintains strong professional and personal ties with the Trump administration through Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. (See Rewire, June 27, 2019 “for a detailed account of the DeVos-Bethany connection.)
Federal tax filings indicate that between 2001 and 2015 the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation gave $343,000 in grants to Bethany’s General Fund. Moreover, between 2012 and 2015, Bethany received another $750,000 in grants from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation run by billionaire Amway founder and Secretary DeVos’s father-in-law, Richard DeVos. Its 2016-2017 tax filings indicate over $2.5 million in donations to Bethany’s General Fund.
The Douglas and Maria DeVos Foundation run by Dick DeVos’s brother Doug and his wife Maria, allocated at least $1.28 million in grants for Bethany’s General Fund (990s for 2011-2-15 were not available online). Sources: Influence Watch and Guidestar. Maria DeVos at one time sat on the Bethany Board.
More DeVos funding comes from the Daniel and Pamella DeVos Foundation to the tune of $81,500 between 2015-2018,
Not all Form 990s are available online, so contributions should be much higher. Two years ago NPR estimated that the DeVos family had poured about $6 million into the agency.
Also problematic: Until May 2018, Brian DeVos, a cousin by marriage, to Betsy DeVos, served as Senior Vice President of Child and Family Services at Bethany.
According to the Bethany Christian Services 2019, Annual Report published on its website, agency operating revenue came to $137,390.000, up from $121,233.000 in 2018. (an increase of $16,187,000 ). Contributions were down about $2 million, but investments increased by more than $5 million. Operation expenses went up to $3.5 million and provisions for future services increased by nearly $2.8 million.
Bethany’s two 2019 Form 990s are also published on its webpage (earlier 990s are available on Guidestar. They reveal the total compensation for high-level executives :
- $864,000 Reportable compensation from the organization
- $517,000 Reportable compensation related to the organization
- $195,662 Estimated amount of other compensation from the organization and related organizations
Grand Total payout to Bethany Bosses: $1,500,000.
As long as we are going all corpo, check the payout to outside consultants:
- Fundraising Consultant: $1,3221,470
- Brand Development Consultant: $292,603
- Public Relations Contractor: $219,392
Do the disaster capitalists at Bethany Christian Services not see the cognitive dissonance of pimping “family preservation” while simultaneously fighting Class Bastard to keep our birth certificates and adoption records sealed and our own families a secret? We need to ask them.
God wants to know why Bethany needs so much money
I’ll discuss how God and adoption come together in Bethany Pimp-aThon Part Two:
The Trembling at the Voice of God