The best stories aren’t tidy. They often carry as much ache as joy. But they remind that, by God’s grace, new life can rise from wreckage, like flowers springing from earth scorched by fire.
I heard one such story last week from a dear friend, Anja Goertzen. She’s been laboring for years in home country of Paraguay to see more children grow up in the love and belonging of family. The story is not tidy, and it tells of enduring ache alongside joy. But like the best of stories, it glows with new life…
*The names and photos in this story have been changed to protect the identity of the child.
Last Saturday was Mother’s Day in Paraguay. For baby Sofia*, an infant born in high social risk, motherhood was celebrated like never before by the multiple moms in her life:
- Her birth mom, struggling with addictions, but still loves her so much even though she can’t care for her
- Her foster mom, who opened her arms, family, and home to care for Sofia for the time needed, and then lovingly say goodbye when it was time
- And now her aunt, who received her in her beautiful family, and will hopefully be her future adoptive mom.
Thanks to the efforts of our partners in Paraguay, Sofia is now HOME.
The Paraguay Protects Families (PPF) is national movement driven by organizations, children’s homes, churches, and individuals with a shared vision: “For every child in Paraguay to grow up in a safe and loving family, and achieve their God-given purpose, making our Heavenly Father known to the entire nation”.
Sofia was born here in Paraguay almost a year ago, at high social and life-threatening risk, with drug intoxication, her mom an addict for over 10 years. Soon after her birth, Sofia had to be removed from her family. She was one of the fortunate ones to go into a loving foster home, with one of the families recruited through PPF movement awareness raising, as Paraguay still has very few foster carers available. Usually, the only option is going to a children’s home for extended periods, sometimes years.
At first, from what her Public Defender (a court-appointed lawyer funded by government) told us, Sofia would very likely be going into adoption because of the high level of risk in her immediate and extended family. However, because the government does not have the needed resources and is severely understaffed in social workers and psychologists to do the required family reunification assessments, Sofia’s case was on hold, and nothing happened.
A few months in, Sofia’s mom did get a Public Defender to represent herself and tried to fight for her baby. However, she has two other young daughters with her, often on the streets recycling with her or alone “begging”, as well as grown children with complex social issues. Despite her efforts, she was unable to get into drug rehab as the public detox center was overcrowded and could not attend to her. She continued to live in a very unstable and violent context, which is hard to get out of even for those who are in a much better place than she.
How did PPF get involved? We had been following up with Sofia’s foster family, as well as the government authorities in charge of her case, to help. Once the private foster care program (created as a result of the PPF movement) was finally officially authorized to operate, the first case requested was this foster family, with several kids in their care plus their own.
Baby Sofia, despite initial health complications, was thriving in her loving foster home, but waiting for permanence and becoming more attached to her carers by the day… Once assigned to her case, our PPF foster care organization got busy right away for Sofia, as she had already been in care for many months and desperately needed permanence.
While working with the foster family to give them training and support, this professional team also carried out the pending family reunification assessment work.
The initial visits with mom and other family members in the slum neighborhood were heartbreaking. They wanted Sofia back so much, but after explaining more about her needs — and what the court requires — for her safety and health, Sofia’s birth mom, herself in tears, expressed that adoption would likely be the best option. We encouraged her as best possible to get help, and to make sure she cares properly for her two other daughters, who we know are also at great risk.
The first miracle we experienced was this: through Sofia’s mom, we were able to get the contact of the mom’s sister who had moved away years ago and is living a very stable family life in a rural part of Paraguay, not that far away! This does not often happen in such cases. But amazingly, when our social work team visited this aunt and family, we found a precious jewel — a family doing well, who from the bottom of their hearts wanted to care for Sofia, even in hopes of adopting her so she can become their daughter in the future.
As a result of our professional work in her case, a court hearing was held soon after, to review our recommendations. Sofia’s mom, mom’s cousin, Sofia’s aunt, prosecutor, mom’s lawyer, and Sofia’s lawyer were all present, as well as our team for support! Right after the hearing, Sofia and her aunt met for the first time in the foster care program’s office, accompanied by our team. It was a priceless and beautiful initial bonding.
This past week, as a result of our efforts, baby Sofia has gone home to her aunt and beautiful family in the countryside. Sofia is now HOME.
From all of us who form part of the PPF movement — the different leaders, professionals, organizations, children’s homes, churches, volunteers, and more — THANK YOU. Stories like Sofia’s are possible through our programs and organizations working towards FAMILY as a solution for every child. Your support can make these happen.
“The solution is not easy but it’s simple: FAMILY”