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On Mother’s Day we spotlighted the recent changes to the Panamanian foster care and adoption system and the work of HOPE partners, Brittany and Dave DeVries. The old law restricted the ability of potential parents to foster and/or adopt children due to an unrealistically extensive screening process and other administrative challenges. These challenges practically made it impossible for institutionalized children in Panama to be adopted.
Through the use of new and social media, Brittany helped educate people with regards to the legal restrictions and lobbied for change. Due to the hard work and support of SENNIAF (The National Office for Children, Youth, and Family), Heart’s Cry Ministries, social workers, and all those that vote for legislative change, a new law was introduced on July 17th, 2013, that improved the foster/adoption process and began helping children in the area to find new families.
On March 20th, 2014, Brittany, Dave, and their two children, Grace (8) and Ethan (4) became Panama’s first foster family under the new pilot program welcoming siblings Maria (8) and Carlos (4) into their lives.
We had the chance to speak with Brittany about her becoming a foster parent and how it’s changed her life: “We have two biological children the same age as our two foster children so in many ways life is the same,” says Brittany. “I often feel like my life is the same but multiplied by 4! More homework, more doctor’s appointments, more grocery shopping. We go through A LOT of bananas in a week. And it’s amazing how little you really need to be happy - time spent, relationships, being creative together these things are of lasting importance with no cost.”
Adding new family members hasn’t just affected Brittany and Dave. How have Grace and Ethan taken to the newly expanded family life? “Grace and Ethan are incredibly flexible,” said Brittany about the family dynamic of her kids, “we’ve tried to raise them to be open to change and welcoming new people into their life. Grace wanted us to foster ALL the children from a local orphanage. That's 130 children! Ethan is 4 and loves having new playmates. I feel like being a foster family is expanding Grace and Ethan’s view of the world and I hope that it will make them more empathetic and loving toward others.”
Brittany’s work in Panama isn’t over yet, there’s still a lot of work to do to ensure that children in the country are properly cared for. In addition to organizing a support network for foster and adoptive parents, Brittany is also working on pre-production for a feature film and developing a TV project to pitch to local networks.
“Part of my work is getting the word out to every sector and exploring what’s possible in our local community,” says Brittany, “The resources are out there, people want to help they just don’t always know how. It’s a huge learning experience and the day-to-day can be very challenging but I wouldn’t change a thing! ‘Live life, love, and be happy’ is our family motto. Life is good!”
Read more about Brittanys work here
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