In this powerful episode with Julie Bolos, we dove deep into the heart of caring for vulnerable children. Julie shared her invaluable experience from New Hope Peru to the Christian Alliance for Orphans, highlighting the urgent need for family-based care over institutional settings. We discussed the profound impact of trauma on a child’s development and the importance of personal connection and individualized care. Our heartfelt conversation also touched on the transformative role of community and church support in building robust family environments for these children. It’s clear that together, we can foster a world where every child finds the love and nurturing they need to thrive. Thank you for joining us on this journey to make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable.

Julie Bolos is a compassionate advocate for the welfare of children in care systems. Her insights into the dynamics between paid caregivers and the children they look after have cemented her reputation as a keen observer and an empathetic voice for the voiceless. Julie understands the delicate emotional balance required in these relationships, recognizing the children’s acute awareness of the transactional nature of professional caregiving.

Throughout her career, Julie has unwaveringly pointed out the psychological impact on children who learn to suppress their emotions and negative behaviors to meet the expectations of a system that often rewards compliance over genuine well-being. She passionately argues that every child’s needs are unique and require tailored solutions that acknowledge their individuality. Bolos’s advocacy work emphasizes the creation of environments where children feel genuinely cared for and allowed to express themselves fully rather than merely adapting to the implicit norms of institutionalized care.

Julie’s mission is propelled by a deep understanding of the emotional complexities involved in care systems, and she tirelessly works towards reforms that prioritize each child’s individual needs, advocating for a world where their emotional health and personal growth are placed at the forefront of caregiving practices.

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Links

Transcript

Julie Bolos [00:00:00]:

Be. It like a family is not the same as a family. And so if we look at that, we're still talking about paid caregivers who are being compensated financially to come in and care for these kids. And we have learned really clearly over the years, these children have a very clear understanding of that, that when the shift ends, their caregiver is going home to their actual family. If a child learns that the most positive thing, that what gets rewarded is to not have bad behavior and to not express negative emotion, then that becomes kind of the rut in the road that becomes most natural and they start to shut down certain parts of who they are and act like that doesn't exist. And of course, the problem is that it does exist. The more we see that every individual child requires an individualized solution and individual needs and for families.

Daniel Johnson [00:01:02]:

Welcome to this episode of the Upwards podcast. My name is Danielle Johnson. I'm your editor and producer. On this episode, Susan Spencer Anderson, upper house's content manager and senior writer, sits down with Julie Bolos. Julie Bolos works as the Communications Manager for Christian Alliance for Orphans, a center on applied research for vulnerable children and families. Prior to this role, she worked with vulnerable children and families in various capacities in multiple countries. Most recently, her and her family were living and working in southern Peru, where they're supporting the care of vulnerable children and families and helping to build the vision for a family based solutions in Peru, she received an Ma in Counseling from Denver Seminary and a BA in Communications from Colorado State University. We hope you enjoy this episode, Julie.

Susan Smetzer-Anderson [00:01:58]:

I'm just really thrilled to have an opportunity to talk to you today. You bring such a depth of experience and worldwide experience actually, to the conversation we're going to have on children and families. And I just want to give people an opportunity to get to know you a little bit better personally, as I have had these opportunities talk to you in social situations at Upper Hill. And so could you give me a sense, and our listeners, a sense of things that drew you into your work with children and families through the alliance of for Orphans? Christian alliance for Orphans?

Julie Bolos [00:02:40]:

Yeah, absolutely, as you kind of made mention of, it's definitely been a long, meandering journey that has brought me to this point, and it's one that I still see very much as a continued journey that I'm just grateful to be on. My current work is with the Christian Alliance for Orphans, and I ended up here as a result of working in the global orphan care space prior to working for CAFO. And I have a really unique opportunity as I'm sitting on my team now, where I get to be part of developing tools and getting tools out into the hands of people around the world who are caring for vulnerable children and families. And I was the receiver. I was the recipient of that information and those tools, and it really had such a great impact on our work. So prior to working for CAFO, my husband Tony and I were working down in Peru, South America for an organization called New Hope Peru, which was established in the mid ninety s as a children's home for vulnerable children that were living on the street at that point. And over the last 25 years it has grown and changed and is really now very focused on family based solutions for children who are not in the care of their parents for whatever reason. And those reasons really run the gamut.

Julie Bolos [00:04:11]:

It's a broad set of issues that bring kids to New Hope, but we're really focused on family based solutions as a result of what we've learned along the way.

Daniel Johnson [00:04:21]:

What did you learn along the way as you were working with orphans? And a lot of people are familiar with orphanages. Yeah, maybe the abstract. What did you learn about the effectiveness of orphanages and helping children grow and become working writhing?

Julie Bolos [00:04:43]:

My first exposure really to orphan care was going down to volunteer at New Hope. I went shortly after I finished my master's degree in counseling. I was ready to step aside from the books and the deep study and just do something really practical. And I wasn't super fluent in Spanish at that point, so I wasn't really going to utilize my counseling degree. I just wanted to go spend some time. And I think like many who have grown up in the evangelical communities, I had a really positive impression of orphanages at that point. And children's homes, the institutions I was familiar with, and New Hope itself had been established by God loving, God fearing individuals who had given their lives to missions, were opening a care facility for kids who needed physical and emotional shelter and were also providing spiritual care along the way and introducing them to a God who loves them. And so my initial impression was very positive and seeing the way that the program had been built to account for all of these various needs and I knew the intention, I knew the deep love for every individual child that was a part of new health's work.

Julie Bolos [00:06:03]:

And it really wasn't until I had started working in that space more over the following years that I came to start seeing gosh the outcomes that are hoped for are not the outcomes that are actually resulting here. And started asking questions, started wondering what else is talking about this? And as I went down that rabbit hole, found that there was some really great information out there and that was my initial link actually to the work of the Christian Alliance for Orphans. I was googling information. I stumbled upon a webinar that they had and I watched it and just had that experience of like, oh, this was made for me, this is answering the questions that I have. And then there was another webinar and another webinar. And so in the course of two weeks, I watched everything that they had and suddenly felt introduced to this conversation that was happening that I previously knew nothing about. What can we do to achieve better outcomes for kids, and what role does family care play in that conversation? And so that was a really enlightening experience. And then from there, it's just kind of been, bit by bit, growing our understanding of the ways that even the best orphanages and children's homes cannot replicate a family.

Julie Bolos [00:07:29]:

And if we consider the fact that scripture paints a very clear picture of God's intention for children to grow up in families, it makes sense that we can provide a number of different things for a child who's not in their parental care. But if we don't give them that experience of family, they're outside of this realm that God intended for them to be in. In terms of having a safe and loving family, the implications are really significant for every individual child. And I think it's often easy for us to think categorically about the number of children who need this. But the work that we were doing at New Hope gave us a really personal connection to individual kids that we loved and wanted to see better things for, and that just kind of propelled us to continue down that path of finding different solutions than what we had offered previously.

Daniel Johnson [00:08:25]:

Julie, for our audience, I'm really curious if you could unpack the experience that children have in orphanages and then also how that experience may or may not prepare them to have their own families later on.

Julie Bolos [00:08:42]:

Yeah, that's a great question. I'll start with what I think is maybe like a best case scenario for a children's home or an orphanage, knowing that it's probably a bit easier for all of us to picture a worst case scenario orphanage, and there are many of those globally where child to caregiver ratios are just unbelievable. If we set those things aside and look at even a best case scenario. Because I think that's maybe where I have learned the most in my journey is even if we're talking about a children's home in which children are living in family like situations where there are regulated maybe four to six kids per caregiver, that's much more reasonable than a one to 30 ratio, right? But if they're living in apartments and they have these smaller ratios and they're cooking their meals in the apartment, they're getting a sense of family life, right? Like, a family is not the same as a family. And so if we look at that, we're still talking about paid caregivers who are being compensated financially to come in and care for these kids. And we have learned really clearly over the years, these children have a very clear understanding of that, that when the shift ends, their caregiver is going home to their actual family, whether they have a spouse and children of their own or maybe they don't yet. But they are part of a family where they have parents, they have siblings, they have aunts and uncles. They know that their caregivers have a life completely outside of these walls and that that is their sense of identity.

Julie Bolos [00:10:36]:

And these kids don't have that same sense of identity. In a best case scenario for a children's home, kids have individual opportunities to pursue their skills and interests. And yet there's a real focus on making sure that we have positive outcomes across the board and trying to mitigate bad behavior. And so many children will learn what it takes to avoid conflict and what it looks like to just do enough to be able to get by in their own circumstances. That's rewarded, but it's really not giving them the space and the freedom that they need to have an emotional experience about the actual life that they're living. And so over time, it's just fascinating to me the way that the human brain works and the the complexities and the way that God has designed it. But as the brain develops and establishes these pathways, if a child learns that the most positive thing, that what gets rewarded is to not have bad behavior and to not express negative emotion, then that becomes kind of the rut in the road that becomes most natural. And they start to shut down certain parts of who they are and act like that doesn't exist.

Julie Bolos [00:12:02]:

And of course, the problem is that it does exist. Ignoring those experiences and feelings doesn't make them go away. It just shows them down. So there are emotional implications, for sure, that develop as a result of having these very regulated relationships with caregivers, not having the freedom to fully develop and experience their emotions. But there's a lot about family life that kids in children's homes don't get to experience. And if we think of the number of things that we have three kids of our own and some of the challenging experiences for many parents right. That we believe are really important for child development, but they're tricky, like taking a toddler out to eat in a restaurant, taking your children along for a family visit, maybe with an elderly relative, where they're just expected to sit there and pretty much be bored. But they're learning how to go about these social norms.

Julie Bolos [00:13:03]:

Or I prefer to go grocery shopping on my own, but when I take my kids with me, they've had to learn that experience of, yeah, you got to follow me around. We're going to get what we need. You're not going to be able to put what you want into the cart all the time and then we're going to stand in the checkout line and it's going to be pretty boring. These are life skills that most children in care facilities are not developing along the way, leading and everything. It is really interesting, isn't it? Because on the one hand, it's like, well, who in their right mind would say, yeah, let me take all of these children out with me, right? But there are these skills that they're not developing to understand what role they play in greater society or what tolerance level they need to develop. Because when we come up against these obstacles and these adverse situations, right, whether it's a child learning to eat in a restaurant, if it's something mild like that, like, we learn as we do, it more and more. But for a child who's had no experience in that whatsoever, it's not just a lack of life skill for that particular thing, but also their brains have not had a chance to normalize an experience like that and develop a tolerance for being exposed to those kinds of things, which is just so interesting.

Daniel Johnson [00:14:20]:

Well, when I think about my two children who are both adopted yeah, one child, both daughters adopted from China. She was 19 months old when we brought her.

Julie Bolos [00:14:32]:

Yeah.

Daniel Johnson [00:14:33]:

And I vividly remember some very unexpected experience I had with her because her experience in the orphanage was always to be on a hard floor tile, concrete. She never went outdoors, as far as I could tell, in running in grass. And the way we found that out is we brought her home, took her outdoors. She was barefoot. I put her on the grass and she started screaming.

Julie Bolos [00:15:01]:

Yeah. Because it was such a foreign sensation. Yeah.

Daniel Johnson [00:15:05]:

I don't know what this is. This was terrifying to Han. And so all of these experiences that to us are kind of like normal and easy for her were anxiety provoking, and of course, she adapted very quickly. She was a very adaptable child. But it was real eye opening for me.

Julie Bolos [00:15:24]:

Yeah, absolutely. Because there is this routine life that frequently works very well in an institutional setting where there's a real shortage of those sensory experiences. There's not a lot of diversity of opinions, there's not a lot of personal expression. And so then there's just a flood of new things when a child steps outside those walls. And I think what you bring up is really important because for a child who's adopted at a young age, they get introduced to those things at a young age. For children who spend the majority of their childhood in an institution, it's not until they leave and are establishing an independent life that they're brushing up against many of these things. And there's just not a lot of context for how to engage a world that's so different from what they've had in an institutionalized setting before.

Daniel Johnson [00:16:19]:

And when you're talking about a family versus a staff caregiver, my thoughts went with that, is that in a family, you're 24/7, you're always like seeing how that child's reacting to certain things, certain foods. How do they negotiate public experiences taking her to the store. She was very afraid of anything that was taller than but I could see how if you're a shift worker and you only saw them at certain times of the day and you don't really pay attention, some of those patterns of behavior get lost. And that means that you're also not able to really help other people understand them. They're doctors, they're teachers. All those people that are supposed to be advocating for them and helping them negotiate the rule are not always going to get the parent isn't there to help them understand. Yeah, I mean, if the parent's really paying attention and trying, yeah, absolutely.

Julie Bolos [00:17:18]:

I think in my own parenting journey, right, we learn these things of it's not always what seems significant, that is significant. There are these seemingly insignificant things that taken in a different angle or seen in a different scenario, helps you to realize, oh, there's actually something bigger going on here that I need to pay attention to. And when you do have shift workers, they're not getting that complete picture and they're not always looking for it. I think it's a job and they're coming. And many times there are staffing situations that incentivize them to just keep things calm. There are, in terms of reporting structures similar to some of the conversations that are happening now about the healthcare industry where sometimes health caregivers are disincentivized from letting people know when things aren't going well because they're at risk of losing their job. Right. If mistakes are made, many times caregivers can find themselves in a similar situation where they may be seeing behaviors that are troubling, they may be finding all kinds of different things, and they may feel threatened, like, no, it's better for me to just get through this shift and get home.

Julie Bolos [00:18:40]:

I don't need to report this. This isn't a big thing. Until further down the road, we realize actually they have had some of these pieces of the puzzle, but nobody was there to really put it all together and see what was going on earlier. And so it provides a more fractured view of each individual child and there's not the same level of cohesiveness that you would get in a family structure.

Daniel Johnson [00:19:08]:

So in the work that you're doing, what I'm really curious about is what has the research shown you about trauma, which all of us have trauma of some sort in our lives, but some children have a lot of trauma. So what has the research shown you about trauma and the mitigating effects of having a child surrounded by a family when it comes to dealing with trauma?

Julie Bolos [00:19:32]:

Yeah, the many studies into trauma are so fascinating and there's so much even beyond where I'm at with my understanding of it. One thing that's interesting with that is I did my master's degree in counseling from 2003 to 2005, and there was really nothing in my program about trauma. Right. There was post traumatic stress disorder and talking about the trauma that could trigger something like that. But trauma was really not part of the landscape at that point even. And since then it's kind of just been this growing snowball avalanche effect of advent, of understanding actually how significant early trauma is. Even trauma that children can't remember, their body remembers, right? And they will continue to live that out over time. And so maybe it would help if.

Daniel Johnson [00:20:29]:

We kind of define what trauma includes.

Julie Bolos [00:20:33]:

Yeah, absolutely. There are a number of different ways of thinking about trauma. But I think it's helpful to distinguish between an event that there can be a certain thing that happens to us, right, and it can become a traumatic event. And sometimes it's not a traumatic event. It sometimes depends on how we process what has happened and whether we're given a chance to process what has happened. Because these experiences, they do live within us and the way that our brain makes sense of them and where they house that information, it affects how we're able to move forward. And so if we think of trauma as really an adverse experience that happens to an individual that is not able to be fully processed and gets stuck in a way of speaking, it gets stuck and it starts to change and impact the way that our brain is able to process other information. And so when we have traumatic experiences, it's essential that we find a way of processing those things.

Julie Bolos [00:21:45]:

And it can be tricky when we're talking about children who may have experienced traumatic events that they don't remember, they may not have the skills at that particular age to be able to process it. And so we look at other aspects of brain development and child development of what does it look like to have positive interactions, whether that's between a child and a caregiver, between a child and the community around them, how do we utilize play as a method for them to express what they have been through? Simply having the opportunity to role play the experience, to get it out, to talk about it some way helps to form and shape that traumatic experience. It gives us a bit of ownership.

Daniel Johnson [00:22:36]:

So to speak, over what like a bit of power? Like if you're able to express it and then work with somebody to reframe it in a way that is growth producing, that is very empowering. Yeah, but that takes time too. It does take time and no one way to do any of this either.

Julie Bolos [00:22:57]:

And I think having appropriate expectations too right, is that as we process things, no amount of processing can reduce the significance of something that has happened to us or to a child. But it does change how we can think about it and our ability to overcome it and to continue developing beyond that. And so I think for many parents and adults who are connected with kids we're familiar with the way that children tend to what's sometimes called ruminating on telling something that has happened to them, right? And it's actually such a great way of children learning to and they don't even have to learn it. Many children just come by it naturally, right. They're just talking about this Troubling thing that happened to them, and they say it again and again and again and whether it's losing their stuffed animal at the airport and this very important thing to them is no longer. A part of their life or being able to recount a scary experience of maybe being in a car accident or we lived through this, my daughters and I. We were on a family hike out in Utah, and the area that we were hiking was prone to rock slides. And having grown up in Colorado, I think I had a bit of a haughty perspective, like, okay, yeah, this never happens, but thanks for the warning.

Julie Bolos [00:24:18]:

Well, lo and behold, we found ourselves in a rockslide. It was just my daughters and I in this moment when this happened, and it was even as an adult, it was a very terrifying experience, knowing that we needed to find cover. There were large rocks that were headed our way, and so we're sheltering together and we're covering our heads. We're doing all the protocol things right, and there are rocks flying past us and really a very scary situation for us. But we were about two thirds of the way up the mountain, and so at that point, we had to figure out with my daughters, well, we have one third of the way left to go and to get to this cave we're headed to, or we have to go two thirds of the way back down. But either way, we've got to move. And so it was interesting for me to live this with my girls and to see what it was like for them to right there in that moment tell me what happened just now. And they're getting their first go.

Julie Bolos [00:25:14]:

And then we made it to the top and they didn't want to go back down. Well, we had to. There's only one way down, but letting them retell again at the top what happened and what it felt like. And then we're talking about it on the way down, what it felt like. And we're talking about it that night, what happened and what it felt like. And they called my parents and told them what had happened and what it felt like. But over time, with each retelling, they're able to process it, they're able to get it out, and we're able to frame things up a little bit of being able to move from that was really scary, and for a while we didn't know if we were going to be okay to that was really scary. And we did the things that we knew we needed to do, and we're okay and we're on this side of it and we can talk about those feelings.

Julie Bolos [00:26:04]:

And it's a long winded example of what it looks like to have a chance to fully process something that could be a traumatic experience. But I think you hear the word trauma applied to a lot of situations now as we were talking about this kind of avalanche of trauma, maybe it's over applied now to many different situations being considered traumatic. But if we think about a traumatic situation being something that really interferes with normal functioning and normal processing, we have tools to be able to process something so that it becomes a difficult experience, but it's maybe not traumatic in the lasting effects that it has on how we're formed, how we're processing the world around us.

Daniel Johnson [00:26:54]:

What you're talking about also reminds me of the book The Body Keeps the Score.

Julie Bolos [00:26:58]:

Absolutely. Yeah.

Daniel Johnson [00:26:59]:

I highly recommend anybody is interested in learning more about how our experiences actually.

Julie Bolos [00:27:06]:

Impact our physical well being.

Daniel Johnson [00:27:08]:

But I love the example that you shared just because it shows how being in a family, you have these people, you know, you can talk with who will help you think out loud, but also kind of move through something because you're not going anywhere, you're together.

Julie Bolos [00:27:25]:

Yeah.

Daniel Johnson [00:27:27]:

So that is a good example of what a family can provide. In your work you have seen that families are basically an advantage to have versus being in an institution. And I wonder if you can talk a little bit more about how churches and the church communities that you're aware of, both in the United States and around the world, have taken steps to kind of move away from the orphanage model and move towards something that is more supportive of families.

Julie Bolos [00:28:03]:

Yeah, it's a really interesting shift that is happening within the Christian Church, both the American Christian Church and globally, as we're starting to understand a little bit more about the impact of children growing up in institutionalized care, just how central family is to God's plan for children. And so for a long time, the American Christian Church has been really supportive and influential in caring for orphaned and vulnerable children through orphanages and children's homes. And many churches have a particular children's home that they've established a mission partnership with and they'll take short term mission trips and maybe do like a child sponsorship program and really believing the very best that this is good care that we are supporting for these kids. And as the research is coming along and really affirming what scripture shows us about God's intention for children, it forces some questions to the church of are we really doing the best for vulnerable children by supporting these models? And what would it look like for us to zero in on and really support family based solutions for kids? I think something that is interesting in all of this is we have our own attachments many times to care provision for kids. We have our own perceptions of orphanages or children's homes, child sponsorship programs. It often does a lot for us as the donor to be a child sponsor for a child in a children's home. It does a lot for us to be able to go on short term mission trips and come alongside these kids and bring joy to them and to interact with them and feel like we're able to offer them something for this one week of time. I think as we scratch below the surface there and really look at from a child's perspective what is happening in this whole system and structure where children who don't have strong attachments to caregivers, if they're perpetually receiving mission trip visitors who are coming down and it's fun, their joy is not fake, right.

Julie Bolos [00:30:37]:

But they're living this cycle of having an attachment experience with a visitor who then leaves after a week and then there's somebody else and then they leave for a week again. If we contrast that with what it looks like in a family right. When we have visitors who come over to our house, often they're personal friends of ours and our kids will come to the door and say hello. Our older kids might shake their hands, but it's usually more of kind of a like hi, we're glad you're here and our kids will talk with us at the family table. That's all really normal within the context of family, it would be unusual and I think it would strike many visitors off guard if they came to our door and my kids just ran to them and jumped into their arms. Super warm and welcoming of just like, we can't wait for you to be here, will you play with us? That would be unusual to see in a family home because our kids have primary attachments to us. They're looking to us to see what this interaction is going to look like. But for kids who don't have primary attachments within a family structure, there is this really warm welcome of visitors who walk through the door of their children's home or their orphanage.

Julie Bolos [00:31:58]:

And many people who've been on these short term missions trips will tell these stories of wow, these kids, they just were so welcoming and they're sitting on my lap and they just want to be with me all the time. And that's a really felt need. And it feels when you're interacting with a child who is looking for that kind of connection, gosh, it feels great to be that kind of connection and to be able to sit there with.

Daniel Johnson [00:32:23]:

That child as valuable as adult coming into the room, bringing joy, absolutely, but not necessarily connection.

Julie Bolos [00:32:30]:

Right. And I think if we think of it in terms of meeting needs, these children absolutely have a need for connection and attachment. But if we think of it as having a need for water or food, right, a short term mission trip visitor. Is really giving them one water bottle that's going to run out pretty quickly. It's one snack where's what they need as a sustainable source of safe drinking water or metaphorically speaking. And so I think as this conversation about trauma and attachment and institutionalized care contrasted with family care kicks off, many churches are starting to recognize, wow, what does it look like? To shift and offer support for children, to be cared for in families, to stop being the short term solution that's really probably doing more for us than it is for the children that we're serving? It gets to be just a really personal and tricky conversation because there is an emotional experience involved. When you are financially supporting children with very clear needs, it looks different to offer financial support for children to be in a thriving family situation.

Daniel Johnson [00:33:57]:

Right.

Julie Bolos [00:33:58]:

It's a different donor experience. And so I think there are difficult questions, challenging questions, anyway, for Christians to be asking ourselves of what does it really look like to do the best we can for kids? And how do we put our financial support and our partnership, our prayer support, our manpower to really support families and to move away from more institutionalized care for kids?

Daniel Johnson [00:34:31]:

I think your point earlier about the culture of adoption and adoptive homes is interesting because it's very much an individualized thing in the United States. Like if we wanted to adopt, it was it was our pursuit, it was our money, it was our enormous amount of effort. So it was a very individualized pursuit. Whereas if we change our vision for what our community goal is not just our individual family goal, but our community goal in the church is to say we're going to build robust families for as many children as we. Can to provide the same kind of excellent care for these kids that God has allowed to enter the world and thrive and be their unique selves. I guess what I'm trying to get at is it's a vision issue.

Julie Bolos [00:35:38]:

Yeah.

Daniel Johnson [00:35:38]:

Like how do we perceive community? How does the church perceive advancing the kingdom of God in regards to the vulnerable children of the world? What I see KFO doing is advancing the conversation around that and helping churches have resources to disseminate more knowledge and understanding about what the needs are and what would be best for kids.

Julie Bolos [00:36:07]:

Yeah, absolutely.

Daniel Johnson [00:36:08]:

So when you talk about donors too, I'm thinking about our own adoption experience and it was really on us to pay thousands of dollars now. We did it internationally, you could do it through foster care. In our situation at that time, I didn't feel comfortable pursuing that route. But a lot of people build their families very successfully by providing foster care and having long term relationships that are really redeeming and trauma addressing, but also just beautiful. And so what I'm curious about is, are you familiar with churches who have grasped this as part of their vision and have created ways to fund adoptions or help support families who are bringing new children into their home whose needs are going to emerge over time. What have you seen being really positive in the church world?

Julie Bolos [00:37:09]:

There is just some really beautiful, inspiring work happening in that realm. And you're right, that bears saying. Cafe has several different initiatives that are focused on different aspects of what it looks like to care well for orphaned and vulnerable children. And so there's A-U-S. Domestic foster care initiative that's looking at mobilizing individuals and churches to being the solution to the need for your families in U. S. Foster care and how do we provide their initiative focuses on more than enough. How do we move from a position of not enough families to having more than enough for kids in US.

Daniel Johnson [00:37:55]:

That's fantastic.

Julie Bolos [00:37:57]:

It's fabulous. And they're just doing excellent work. Capo has resources focused, particularly for churches who are asking questions all the way to fully passionate about how do we become a church who is involved in caring for some of the least of these in our society? By supporting foster families, supporting kids in foster care, getting behind global orphan care in a way that truly elevates the need to see kids in family based solutions. And so there are beautiful examples of this. There are so many different ways that churches can get involved based on the capacity that they have. But there are examples of churches who are committing to individual foster families to really be what's often called the wraparound care that they need. So they're getting the support that they need to enable them to be all in. Foster care families helping with other children in the family, helping to get kids to doctors appointments and medical appointments.

Julie Bolos [00:39:04]:

Establishing educational care that's needed. But really viewing it as the church's responsibility to come alongside these families and give them the support that they need so they can really thrive in their role of caring for kids. And that's a model that is expanding globally. That's very exciting to see. In our work in Peru. We have received a lot of training and support from an organization in Costa Rica, and they have really seen a lot of success in establishing a foster care system largely mobilized through the church in Costa Rica and getting individual churches to commit to providing enough support that their church can put forward a foster family. And then they will be that wraparound support for the foster family, helping to meet those practical needs. There are other churches, both globally and domestically in the United States that are involved in different ways by providing really practical support.

Julie Bolos [00:40:10]:

Needs care Portal is an organization that has just done a beautiful job of kind of smoothing that path for getting people involved in providing physical needs that need to be met for kids that are going through transitional care. So there are some beautiful examples that are happening. But I think what stands out to me most is there's really a growing posture of learning and asking questions. And I think we all know that that's a beautiful thing and can be a really shaky, intimidating thing to take a system of doing missions work, whether that's global or in your own community, and to start asking questions and to say is this doing the best that we can? And if it's not, how can we do better? And that posture of being willing to learn and to ask those questions, to be able to go to mission partners and say what's working and what's not is sending Christmas gifts every year, is that really the most effective thing that we can do? Or is there something else that we could do? What kind of questions can we ask? How can we pray in a different way? And as those conversations open up, I think that's really where some of the transformative power is. To see an overall change in what it's going to look like for individual Christians and churches together, to be involved in a healthy way of seeing kids end up in families.

Daniel Johnson [00:41:49]:

What you're really talking about is a paradigm shift.

Julie Bolos [00:41:52]:

Absolutely.

Daniel Johnson [00:41:53]:

And the willingness to ask questions I think is so positive on so many different fronts and this is just one of them. So I'm so grateful for the work that you're doing and for the vision that you have for this. So has there been any one particular story that stands out to you about a kid and family that you would like to share with us?

Julie Bolos [00:42:14]:

Yeah, I'll just say quickly, I think that what this journey has really revealed to me by personality. I really like clean solutions, I really like to be able to identify the elements that are at play and find a system that's really just going to work.

Daniel Johnson [00:42:32]:

Right.

Julie Bolos [00:42:32]:

And I think that actually lends itself very well to children's homes and orphanages because you can kind of just have a one size fits all solution. And the further we go down this path, the more we see that every individual child requires an individualized solution and individual needs. And for families, the things that are presenting challenges and that are putting a family at risk of being separated, it's individualized. And I think there's something really central about that to our identity as Christians of what does it look like to come alongside really complicated situations. And if we think about as I've become more aware of that nature that I have myself of preferring clear cut solutions. Right. I think we see actually often what's at the heart of what God is calling to us as Christians is willingness to get involved in more complicated, messy situations. And this idea of who is my neighbor and how do I care for them? When we look at the Samaritan and what all was involved right.

Julie Bolos [00:43:54]:

It's pretty complicated care and really a willingness to get down and make physical contact and get involved in a pretty messy situation.

Daniel Johnson [00:44:09]:

And one that was inconvenient.

Julie Bolos [00:44:11]:

One that was inconvenient. And there was personal cost involved to him. Literal personal cost and also metaphorical cost. Right. Involved in choosing to take the time to address this individual and the individual needs and to do what he could and then transporting this individual and providing for his care. And it wasn't simple, it wasn't clean, it was complicated. And I think that many times, very understandably. We're drawn to solutions that feel clean and simple ways of engaging that are going to be simple because many of us don't have much margin for life disruption.

Daniel Johnson [00:44:54]:

Right.

Julie Bolos [00:44:54]:

But I think at the heart of this example that Jesus chose to give us in response to this question of who is my neighbor? I think he paints a picture of not only who is my neighbor, but what does it look like to care well for my neighbor? And it's likely to be pretty complicated. It's likely to be inconvenient and it's likely to be pretty challenging and distressing. And sometimes choosing to care well for our neighbors, especially when we're talking about vulnerable individuals in the world, it's unsettling and it brings us a front row seat to things that maybe we didn't actually want to see when we set out to do this.

Daniel Johnson [00:45:36]:

I just really appreciate you saying that. I'm going to interrupt you just because I think about the cost of caring for somebody.

Julie Bolos [00:45:44]:

Yeah.

Daniel Johnson [00:45:44]:

I mean, not the financial cost, but the emotional cost. And when we adopted our kids, we were also saying yes to what we would never be able to know ahead of time. Right. That's whenever you build a family, whenever you have a child, you're saying yes to a new person who's going to bring with them a whole set of gifts, but also some things that are really hard to deal with or things that are going to be their challenges throughout their life. And I think asking ourselves, am I willing to pay that price? Is a really good question and not to beat ourselves up with our answers because some of us can only do so much and we know our limit. Asking the question of ourselves and asking the question of our community think is partly what we need to be doing.

Julie Bolos [00:46:38]:

Yeah. You had asked if there are any particular stories or situations that stick out to me, and one that comes to mind is something that Tony and I often talk about and retell because it really has just left such an impression on us. But when we were living in Peru and working at New Hope, we would receive mission teams from churches that would come down, and we were in the middle of a week like that. And this church had done a number of different things throughout the week, including a lot of sports activities and things with the kids. And so there was one evening at the kind of the tail end of that week where there was a big volleyball game happening, and one of our teenage girls that lives at New Hope was sitting off by herself kind of at the end of the sports area and looked pretty down. And so Tony went over to her and was expecting to hear that what was bothering her was either boyfriend drama or friendship drama. Sat down, started talking with her, and as I started talking, she opened up with Tony. And know what's really bothering me is that I'm here.

Julie Bolos [00:47:55]:

And we've had this great week with this group of families that came down from the United States to do all this for know, and we've had a really fun week, and yet I'm sitting here and it hurts because I realize that really what I want more than anything is to be in a family. Like, I see here these families who have come down to serve together, and I look around and I just know what I really want is to be part of a family. And at that point, another one of our teenage girls had come to join them. And she's listening and she reached over and put her arm around her and just said, that's what we all want. That's what we all want. And that was a really clarifying moment for us of seeing what the lived experience is for these kids that they can very clearly name it and see it for what it is. That for these girls, the other side of their lived experience is that within the community where New Hope sits, our kids tell us that their neighborhood friends right from school will say, wow, you're so lucky to live there. It's so nice.

Julie Bolos [00:49:14]:

You have that super nice soccer field, and you have volleyball courts, and you have volleyballs and soccer balls to play with that aren't just flat all the time, right? You have all your needs met. Your accommodations are really nice. We have a lovely facility. The kitchens are well kept up and they're fully furnished. And we do what we can to provide a great living experience for these kids. So for their peers, their peers from the outside are looking in saying, wow, it's so nice everything that you have. You're so lucky to live there. And they're reckoning with this reality of my physical needs are met so well here.

Julie Bolos [00:49:53]:

I know that I'm loved and cared about by the staff, and yet I have this longing inside of me to be part of a family.

Susan Smetzer-Anderson [00:49:59]:

Thank you for listening to the Upwards podcast. You can find more information about Upper House@upperhouse.org, where we have a full list of events, a media library, and you can find out more about our space. Go forth and do good.