SHERIDAN — Adoption agencies throughout the United States often find it difficult to place older orphans in forever homes. Summer of Hope, a program run through The Sacred Portion Children’s Outreach organization out of Bozeman, Montana, helps older children find families.
Amber Van Dyke serves Sheridan’s pre- and post-adoptive family populations and helps coordinate Summer of Hope in Sheridan alongside Jessica Porter.
Every year, the program connects adoptable orphans from different countries with host families in America. Van Dyke said the children think they are coming strictly for vacation so there’s not an expectation on their part. Host families, while not required to, are encouraged to consider adoption when enrolling in the program. The children chosen to participate in the program are also cleared for international adoption upon arrival to the U.S.
“[Adoption is] the ultimate hope of the program, but we try to be careful,” Van Dyke said.
Preparation for families to host children looks similarly to that of a normal pre-adoption process with an agency and includes background checks, home studies and several forms to be filled out. Porter also said children are matched with host families based on the families’ desires on what they’re looking for in a potential adoption. Seven children from the Philippines are currently staying in Sheridan for four weeks for the American cultural experience. Rappler.com cited the Filipino Department of Social Welfare and Development listing close to 6,500 children in need of permanent homes in the country.
Families do a lot on their own, but Summer of Hope liaisons like Van Dyke and Porter also help host group activities, both private and public, to help support the families throughout the time with the children. The private meetings help host families communicate with each other on the struggles and celebrations of their time with the children. Public events help bring in community partners like churches and family and friends of the hosts to help support and potentially become involved in the Summer of Hope program in the future.
Summer of Hope and its parent organization are Christian nonprofits, so churches play a big role within the program.
“There’s a neat mix of different churches involved in the whole process and even a lot of community support outside of that,” Van Dyke said. “We’ve fundraised the entire cost to bring [the children], which was a lot of money, so host families did not have to cover that cost themselves.”
Businesses also contribute heavily to the cause.
“It’s definitely been a community-wide program as well, not just a church-based program,” Van Dyke said.
As Van Dyke presented the program in church one Sunday, Jennifer Jorgensen wept. Jorgensen and her husband, Erik, struggled to have more children after their daughter was born and chose to start looking for other options to bring children into their home.