Bethany Christian Services


I’ve often wondered what how Private Adoption Agencies operate. What are their goals? How does process work? What are the funds used for when completing an domestic adoption?

See, I’m a Fostercare Adoptive Parent of three boys. My experience adopting is a little different then your typical domestic adoption situation. Sure, I had to complete a home study and take a few parenting classes, but there where some things I had no idea were required or went on behind the scenes  when it came to private adoptions.

I went to Bethany Christan Services here in Virginia to find answers to my questions. I met with Jana McDermott who’s the Virginia Branch Manager. We had very open and progressive conversation about adoption and life! I definitely gained more understanding and how the process works.

Here’s more of what Bethany Christian Services had to say.

Mrs. McDermott, tell us more about your background before becoming Director of Bethany Christian Services of Virginia.

I was raised to believe that helping others is the most important thing I could ever do. My mother was a kind and caring woman who would send me to an elder neighbors’ home to bring her cookies. I remember how wonderful it felt to bring a smile to Mrs. Robert’s face. I joined the Peace Corps after college and served in Kingston, Jamaica with a teen mothers’ program for the Churches Advisory Bureau. We helped young women prepare to parent their children.

For the past 20 years, I have worked in the fields of domestic violence, rape and child sexual abuse. I have responded to rape calls at hospitals and walked young women and children through the sexual assault exams. I have overseen a domestic violence hotline and trained teens and adults about the prevalence and dynamic of abuse and sexual assault. I am also a certified child abuse prevention instructor and have trained over 500 people on how to increase their child protective behaviors through a program called Stewards of Children.

In my role as Child Advocacy Center Director, we planned and implemented a new treatment clinic utilizing high fidelity evidenced-based, trauma-focused mental health services for children and families. The past 10 years, I have led a child abuse multidisciplinary team that investigates and responds to allegations of child physical and sexual abuse. The team includes law enforcement, prosecution, child protective services, medical and mental health as well as advocacy for children and families. Shockingly, one in four children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.

Explain the History of Bethany and how it has evolved over the years.

In 1944, Marguerite Bonnema and her friend and roommate Mary DeBoer took in a neighbor’s orphaned baby girl. 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.


In 1951, Bethany obtained its child placement license and began serving as an adoption agency and offering pregnancy counseling services. By 1960, Bethany was expanding to other states, and in 1982, Bethany went global with the placement of children from South Korea through its international adoption program.

Today, Bethany is serving more than 45,000 expectant parents, children and families in the United States and around the world through foster care, pregnancy support, refugee services, adoption and other services. Bethany’s diverse ministries and its influence both nationally and internationally demonstrate the love and compassion of Jesus Christ and our commitment to protecting and enhancing the lives of children and families through quality social services.

Can you explain the misconceptions the public may have about today’s Bethany and its relationship with birthmothers?

Open Adoptions?

Nationally, Bethany has been facilitating open adoptions since 1990, assisting birth-parents and adoptive families in formulating an ongoing communication plan after birth. Almost all adoptions today have some level of openness or contact between the adoptive and birth families. Bethany’s staff helps both families carefully consider the benefits and challenges that may come through open adoption relationships.

What Support is available?

In Virginia, we serve both pregnant mothers and adoptive families. Our services include pregnancy counseling, home studies and support in formulating adoption plans. Beginning in 2020, we will also offer help in facilitating foster care and adoption from foster care.

Abortion? Pro-choice?

For over 45 years, Bethany has responded to the crisis of abortion by walking alongside women and men facing an unintended pregnancy, offering them life-affirming options and supporting them with resources and counseling. We believe every child is made in the image of God. Each of them matters deeply to Him, and each of them matter to us. But the mother of that child is also vulnerable, so we reach out to her with love, grace and compassion. By supporting life-affirming options and demonstrating the love and compassion of Jesus Christ, we are able to reach women who are facing a difficult decision and who need to know that they have other options.

What are the current services that Bethany Christian Services of Virginia offer?

In our Virginia branches, we offer domestic infant adoption, international adoption, pregnancy counseling and some post-adoptive services related to search and reunion. We have declared 2019 the Year of the Birth Mother and we’ve partnered Lifetime Healing, LLC to provide support groups in the Fredericksburg and Richmond communities. This effort is about seeing the needs and supporting the healing journey for mothers who have made the difficult, yet loving, decision to make an adoption plan for their children.

Can you explain the home study process at Bethany?

A home study is an evaluation done in a family’s home prior to a child’s placement in that home. It is done by a social worker who is either licensed by the state or works for a licensed child-placement agency. This evaluation includes the social, medical and criminal history of prospective adoptive parents and an assessment of things like parenting skills, finances, who else is living in the home, views on raising children, etc.

We use an evidenced supported model called the Structured Analysis Family Evaluation (SAFE) Home Study Assessment. The process includes 3 or 4 interviews with prospective adoptive parents and results in an 8 to 10-page report that is shared with the family. Background checks, references, medical checks and expectation are also part of the assessment. More detail can be found online at

What are the goals for Bethany this year?

Between 2019 and 2020, we will be starting two new services: 1) Trafficking Victims Assistance Program (TVAP), which involves case management services for children and adults who have been trafficked; and 2) A phased reopening of our foster care adoption program.

Will Bethany Christian Services of Virginia offer services for Foster Care Adoption?

In 2020, our office will begin offering services for Foster Care Adoption. Right now, in this country, there are more than 100,000 children nationwide in foster care who are waiting to be adopted into a forever family, but an average of 23,000 youth “age out” of the foster care system every year. Many of these children waiting to be adopted are older, are part of a sibling group or are an ethnic minority. Some children have developmental delays and medical issues; others display emotional and behavioral challenges. Yet, all of these special children need a loving and caring home where they can heal. We believe every child deserves a forever family. We will be searching for those families for children currently in care.

The public often wonders why Private Adoption is so expensive, ranging 20k-40k. Can you break down and explain the expenses to our readers?

These costs generally include a home study fee, document preparation fees, legal fees, travel expenses, agency fees and birth mother expenses. Foster care adoption, however, is much less expensive and sometimes has no expense at all to the adoptive family. So, it is important for families looking to adopt to know that these programs exist.

Also, add anything else you would like the public to know about Bethany.

I have seen the need for government, nonprofits and faith-based agencies to come together and share resources and expertise in order to serve in ways that honor children and families. Bethany wants to be in this space. We believe we have been uniquely equipped to lead, love and shine a light in the dark places that cause people not to ask for help when they need it. We want to be connectors and facilitators of the abundant resources our country and world has to offer whether for children in foster care, women with unplanned pregnancies, refugees, unaccompanied minors or couples struggling with infertility.


Bethany Christian Services on

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barry farmer