Back2Back Ministries, a Cincinnati-area international orphan care agency, can’t save every orphan in the world.
But it can provide orphan care, one child at a time.
The Mason-based nonprofit has established the first foster care program in Mexico in conjunction with the Mexican government and the local faith community.
The Back2Back Familias Sustitutas Mexico (Foster Care Mexico) program provides faith-based, family-based care for at-risk adolescents and children who have been separated from their families of origin.
The first eight families in Mexico were trained by Back2Back and certified by the Mexican government to become foster parents in August. Children are slated to be placed in foster homes beginning this fall.
“There are about 163 million orphans in the world today,” said Todd Guckenberger, Back2Back co-executive director. “Only a small percentage of these children find themselves in a faith-filled, family-oriented foster home. This means the vast majority of the world’s orphans live on the street, in institutions, are sexually trafficked or are ‘social orphans,’ children who have families, but are neglected, abandoned and abused.”
Guckenberger and his wife, Beth Guckenberger, lead Back2Back Ministries. She is an internationally-known speaker, author of four books on orphan care and co-host of Real Life, a Saturday morning radio show on Sirius-XM 131. The couple spent 16 years raising nine biological, foster and adopted children in Monterrey.
“We are thrilled to work with the Mexican government and church on this faith-based foster care initiative. It’s our hope children will find a safe and nurturing home and discover God’s story for their life,” said Beth Guckenberger.
Back2Back’s goals are modest– to grow the Mexican foster care program to 50 families in 2014. Foster families in the Mexican program are not incentivized with money, but by a calling to serve. Each family is choosing to absorb the estimated $3,000 annual cost per child in the program.
Back2Back is a Christian nonprofit organization focusing on alternatives such as foster care for children who are neglected, abandoned, abused, and fatherless in Mexico, Nigeria, Haiti, and India.
It relies on donations, donations-in-kind, sponsors for children and mission trip volunteers to fund, staff and serve orphans in Monterrey, Cancun and Mazatlan, Mexico; Hyderabad, India; Jos, Nigeria; and Port au Prince, Haiti.
Back2Back addresses its children’s needs through a holistic faith-curriculum that focuses on spiritual, physical, educational, emotional and social development.
“We have to build the best alternatives of care possible for these children because institutions are not the ideal option for a child,” said Brian Bertke, Back2Back ministry advancement director. “A family which can give individual care is one of the best solutions, allowing for greater success for an orphan child.”
There are 40 registered orphanages in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, 30 of them in the city of Monterrey, the largest city in the state. In addition, there are thousands of social orphans in Monterrey alone.
Cost of program development and initial implementation for 2013 was $175,000, mostly for the technical team, operational and facility needs. Estimated annual cost to run the program will be about $195,000.
In May 2012, Back2Back staff attended the U.S. Christian Alliance for Orphans’ Summit of the Orphan conference in Saddleback, Calif., and were inspired to collaborate in January, 2013 with the Nuevo Leon social services department to develop its foster care program.
In April, Back2Back hosted a Spanish version of the orphan summit by inviting 250 Nuevo Leon government and church officials, encouraging them to engage in the foster care movement. The response was overwhelming. More than 400 attended the Mexican orphan summit.
Shortly afterward, Back2Back staff trained with Costa Rica-based Casa Viva, learning its best practices in faith-based foster care, then returned to Mexico to look at procedures within the Mexican cultural context. The Mexican sovereign state of Nuevo Leon then sanctioned foster families to exist this past summer.
“Watching the community come together at the Monterrey summit was a foreshadowing of what will come in this country,” said Beth Guckenberger. “The church and the state all want the same thing: to afford children the safety and security a family brings.”
Back2Back will host an Orphan Sunday informational event Sunday, Nov. 3, from 4 to 6 p.m. at The Underground, 1140 Smiley Avenue in Cincinnati to educate Cincinnatians about its orphan care mission. The event is free and open to the public.
A premiere of the documentary titled, “1/163,000,000” will be shown at the Nov. 3 event. The film documents the life of 18-year-old orphan Shannen Brown, one of the 163 million orphans in the world today. The film follows Shannen’s life from her abandonment at age four through the application process as she prepares to enter college in a nursing school.
To see the film trailer, go to www.back2back.org/cincyorphansunday.
“More national and international volunteers are being trained in tutoring, mentoring and discipleship by our staff,” said Bertke. “More Mexican families are curious how to become foster parents. There is a huge need in the world to take care of abandoned children. We hope to inspire people to donate, sponsor or volunteer to help.”
Back2Back is a member of the Christian Alliance for Orphans. For more information about Back2Back Ministries, go to www.back2back.org or call 513-754-0300.