Origin Story

Our founders started Bethany by taking in one child who needed a home.

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. Last year, Bethany served more than 45,000 expectant parents, children, and families.

Bethany founders taking a picture in front of the first office.

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 VanderVeer , 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.

Bethany original staff working on a case file.

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.

Group photo of some of the first children under Bethany's care.

150 million reasons to help

Today, 150 million kids don't have a permanent home. To us, that's simply unacceptable.

Together, we can change the world through family.