Making an Impact
Since 1944, Bethany has grown and developed not only into a well-known adoption agency, but a social services agency that serves and supports expectant parents, foster families, individuals and families in need of counseling, and struggling families and children who are in desperate need of even the most basic necessities. Bethany’s purpose is to demonstrate the love of Christ by equipping families to be the answer for children in need. Our founders started Bethany by taking in one child who needed a home. Today, Bethany has been helping find loving families for more than 100,000 children annually.
How it All Started
In 1944, Marguerite Bonnema received the shock of her life.
To her surprise, a little neighbor girl revealed her father's strong dislike of his wife's illegitimate baby girl. "He is going to kill [the baby]," the little girl said. Marguerite replied, "Tell him not to kill her but to give her to me."
Arrangements were made—in a hurry. The neighbor mother and baby girl traveled by bus to a train station, where Marguerite and her friend and roommate Mary DeBoer received the child to live with them in their small apartment.
But the two didn’t stop with one child. In the coming months, they took in five more babies, and that November, with the help of Andrew VanderMeer, they founded Bethany Christian Home as a nonprofit organization. The following year, the home moved to a residence on the 13-acre property in Grand Rapids, Michigan where Bethany’s present headquarters now stand.
With a state childcare license procured, Marguerite and Mary’s dream was now a fledgling reality—one which, prospering through the years, would help make countless other dreams come true.
In the words of our founders, “It was earnestly hoped that Bethany Christian Home would always be a place where Christ’s presence could be felt and His blessing sought and enjoyed.”
In 1951, Bethany obtained its child placement license and began serving as an adoption agency. Twenty-five children gained loving adoptive families through Bethany that year. Pregnancy counseling services also commenced, with 59 single mothers receiving guidance.
Amazing Growth, Amazing Grace
Bethany began with the dream of two women who stepped out in faith, with hearts full of love. Today, Bethany’s diverse ministries and its influence both nationally and internationally have grown in ways its founders could never have imagined. But their dream remains our guiding star: to demonstrate the love and compassion of Jesus Christ by protecting and enhancing the lives of children and families through quality social services. A string of awards, an impressive list of achievements, international favor and impact—these are just some of the by-products of serving as the hands and feet of Christ.
- 1954 - Bethany appointed Hudson Nyenhuis as its executive director.
- 1960 - The first branch office opened in New Jersey.
- 1974 - The organization changed its name from Bethany Christian Home to Bethany Christian Services to reflect the growing diversity of its ministries.
- 1982 - Bethany went global with the placement of children from South Korea through the new international adoption program.
- 1983 - Lifeline (1.800.BETHANY) began assisting expectant mothers who were in need of help and direction.
- 1985 - After 31 years of faithful service by Hudson Nyenhuis, the executive directorship passed on to James Haveman, Jr. and the next phase of growth began.
- 1990 - Bethany began facilitating open adoptions—assisting birthparents and adoptive families in formulating an ongoing communication plan after birth.
- 1991 - Glenn De Mots stepped in as executive director. Under De Mots’ leadership, the international adoption program continued to grow, with the completion of Bethany’s first adoption through China in 1992 and from Albania in 1995.
- 2006 - More than 10,000 children were brought together with their forever families and Bethany Christian Services Global was established that December as a subsidiary corporation of Bethany Christian Services.
- 2006 - Bill Blacquiere was selected as Bethany’s President and CEO. Bill’s forward-thinking and innovative approach has led Bethany into many new areas. Bethany now serves children and families in more than 100 location in the United States and in more than a dozen countries—emerging as a global leader in child welfare and social services.
- Today - Bethany is serving more than 100,000 children and 200,000 individuals in the U.S. and around the world through pregnancy support, adoption, foster care, and other services.